What’s all the buzz about bees?

Before I headed to Austin, TX  last week for the SXSW music, film, and interactive conference (I helped put together a panel discussion there on the Future of Gaming for Discover Magazine and the National Science Foundation), I Googled “citizen science in Austin” and came upon the Texas Beewatchers. The organizer of this citizen science effort, Kim Bacon, and I had the opportunity to chat about her project which originated as a simple observation effort and now challenges her fellow Texans to plant 52 “bee friendly” gardens in 52 weeks. You can read more about that, here.

IMG_5657_Listening to Kim’s enthusiasm and genuine desire to create healthy bee habitats–coupled with news about bee colony collapses and its impact on the $14 billion worth of U.S. crops dependent upon pollinators–opened my eyes to even more recent buzz about bees. Today, in San Francisco (where I am now, meeting with the founders of the Coalition for Public Understanding of Science ), the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting featured some troubling news about bees. Christopher Mullin and his colleagues at Pennsylvania State University report that their research* demonstrates “unprecedented levels” of mite-killing chemicals and crop pesticides found in hives across the United States and parts of Canada. In this Science News article, Mullins adds: “The biological impacts of these materials at their dietary levels on other honey bee larvae or adults remains to be determined.” Some suspect these contaminants play a role in the mysterious colony collapse.

None of this sounds good for the future of honey bees, so this year I’m committing to participate in another Bee citizen science activity: The Great Sunflower Project. Simply plant and nurture sunflower seeds as directed in the ScienceForCitizens.net project description, and watch a bee pollinate roughly every 2.6 minutes! By synthesizing such observations, the organizers of this activity hope to standardize the study of bee activity while providing more resources for bees.

*The 19-page report can be found in the March PLoS ONE.

Categories: Citizen Science, Ecology & Environment, Insects, Nature & Outdoors


About the Author

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier is a Professor at Arizona State University's Center for Engagement and Training, part of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter. She is also the founder of Science Cheerleader, an organization of more than 300 current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers, and a cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a network of universities, science centers, and think tanks that produces public deliberations to enhance science policymaking. She is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, a senior advisor at Discover Magazine, a member of the EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, and was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences "Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning" committee. She is the author of The Science of Cheerleading and co-editor of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, published by Arizona State University. Darlene holds degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and was a high school, college and NBA cheerleader. Darlene lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children.