On average, one of every three bites of food you put in your mouth depends on “animal pollination” – the movement of insects, particularly bees, between plants. They play a crucial role in flowering plant reproduction and in the production of most fruits and vegetables. About 80% of all flowering plants and over three-quarters of the staple crop plants that feed humankind rely on animal pollinators like bees.
But bees are in trouble. Scientific studies have suggested that both honey bee and native bee populations are declining. Scientists fear this will harm pollination of garden plants, crops and wild plants. They could help bees if they could collect simple data about their presence at certain times in certain locations. With this data, they can devise ways to conserve and improve the bee population.
How do you track bees on such a large scale? By assigning the data collection task to an external resource – everyday gardeners.
“Simply by taking that fifteen-minute step, these citizen scientists make a contribution to saving bees,” LeBuhn said. “It’s remarkable having all these different people willing to participate, willing to help, and interested in making the world a better place.”