The Great Sunflower Project needs gardeners to plant sunflower seeds and to spend a few minutes of time observing bee activity in their gardens.
This simple act will help honeybees in two ways: it will provide an important food source and it will help collect information about bee populations across the country.
I wrote about The Great Sunflower Project last year after reading about it in Sunset Magazine. Gretchen LeBuhn, AKA The Queen Bee, is an associate professor of biology at San Francisco State University and the founder of this national effort to get home gardeners to help track bee activity in their backyards.
The Lemon Queen sunflower (Helianthus Annuus) is the project’s flower of choice. You can find these sunflower seeds at your local nursery, purchase them from The Great Sunflower Project or look from them at your neighborhood Target or Wal-Mart. Be sure to purchase the annual (not perennial) variety and wait to plant until night time temperatures stay above 55 degrees.
Lemon Queen features lemony-yellow petals surrounding a dark brown center. These sunflowers are easy to grow if planted in well-drained soil in a sunny spot in the garden. Not only is this a beautiful flower for your garden, but the sunflowers are an excellent source of pollen, the sole source of protein for bees.
Some of the data collected from gardeners during last year’s project was recently released and Gretchen shared the results.
She wrote that one of the goals of the Sunflower Project is to find out if urban gardens are attracting enough bees to pollinate plants.
“To my great surprise, in looking at the data, we find similar rates of bee visits in rural, suburban and urban gardens,” she wrote.
Urban gardeners who thought bee activity had fallen off the chart should be encouraged by these results.
This data was collected by gardeners who planted Lemon Queen sunflowers and then observed bee activity on the flowers in their gardens. Gardeners timed how long it took for them to see 3 bees land on their sunflowers. The mean time for urban gardeners was about 9 minutes.
Participating in a research project like this is a win-win-win. Bees benefit by all the extra sunflowers being planted, gardeners benefit by being able to attract more bees to their gardens and The Great Sunflower Project benefits by having more volunteer researchers gather important information about bees and their habitats.
Please write a comment here to let me know you’re joining The Great Sunflower Project. I’d like to send you a personal note of thanks on behalf of all the bees who will benefit from your efforts.