Lemon Queen Gardening Causes a Big Buzz

If you’re looking for a way to attract more bees to your garden, plant a patch of Lemon Queen sunflowers and join The Great Sunflower Project.

In May I planted a packet of Lemon Queen sunflower seeds so I could be one of the citizen scientists counting bees for the The Great Sunflower Project. The project is the brainchild of Grechen LeBuhn, a professor in the Department of Biology at San Francisco State University.

The project encourages gardeners to plant sunflowers and collect data that will help gauge the health of urban bee populations.

I’m one of about 50,000 gardeners who have signed up to plant and count. So far I’ve submitted the results of three observations.

I don’t know how many bees gardeners are counting in other areas, but I have to say, the bees are loving my Lemon Queens.

During each of my observations honeybees have landed on these sunflowers at nearly one landing per minute during each 15-minute observation.

I’ve followed Gretchen’s instructions and taken samples in the morning between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. when bees are most active. She recommends sampling throughout the summer and in the early and late part of each month.

Seldom do I get the chance to sit quietly and enjoy my garden, so I’m especially enjoying the assignment. Studying one blossom on one plant is a gardening meditation. It’s fascinating to watch closely as each bee lands on the flower and makes its way around the blossom collecting pollen granules and stuffing them into the pollen sacs on each hind leg.

Today I saw the tiniest bee I’ve ever seen. This little guy was only about 1/4-inch long and looked exactly like a full-size honeybee. So cute!

I hope you’ll consider planting some Yellow Queen sunflowers next spring and signing up to help The Great Sunflower Project. Not only will you be helping with an important national data collection effort, but you’ll be helping your neighborhood bees–and yourself–at the same time.


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Do you only recommend Lemon Queen sunflowers to count the bees? Are their other sunflower varieties you recommend?

Hi Ava:

Thanks for your question about growing Lemon Queen sunflowers for bee counting. To help researchers involved in the Great Sunflower Project, it’s best to have all gardeners plant the same variety of sunflowers for a more consistent count. Consistency in counting makes it easier to compare data gathered from across the country.

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