I was walking barefoot across our yard the other day and when I got to a patch of clover I slowed down and started walking very carefully because I didn’t want to step on a bee. I wasn’t really concerned about getting stung, I was more concerned about hurting a bee because they are in such short supply here this year. What a difference from the days of my youth some 50 years ago!
Back then it was truly hard to walk across my parent’s yard without stepping on a honeybee. The yard was full of clover, and it was covered in bees when the clover was blooming. More than once I was careless and got stung on the foot. Only later did I learn that the honeybee gave its life in the act of stinging, it’s body torn apart as the barbed stinger remained when it flew away.
Last year we had a lot of honeybees, but they have been hard to find so far this year. At first I thought perhaps it was too cool, or too windy, or too early for them to be out. Now I’m concerned that something has happened to the hive(s) that were nearby. That would not be surprising, since Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) as well as various insect and disease problems have caused an estimated one third of the nation’s honeybee colonies to disappear in recent years.
This year I’m going to help the bees by participating in The Great Sunflower Project. Gardeners everywhere are encouraged to participate by growing annual Lemon Queen sunflowers, and then recording data on how many bees visit the sunflowers. Since 2008 they have expanded the list of plants studied to include Bee balm, Cosmos, Rosemary, Tickseed, and Purple coneflower.
Details are on the project website. The information collected will give the researchers an index of pollination that they can compare across the United States, and help them to pinpoint where bees are most in trouble. The seeds for this sunflower variety are widely available, including from these sources.
Please consider helping me in this science project. The bees need all the help they can get!