What’s That Buzz?

bee covered in pollenThe clichés are true. Bees are busy and they do buzz when they move from flower to flower.  My gardening confidence bumps up several notches when they come to town, knowing my pumpkin plants are in good ‘hands.’

I’m terrible at sitting or standing still for long, but find the garden helps slow me down.  While standing still, I notice so much more. This morning I saw three different birds in the orange tree, a snail meandering on an orange peel and a group of industrious, shiny black bees.

The standing still part didn’t last long as I followed the bee from flower to flower, snapping as many pictures as I could before the pollinator moved on. Within a few minutes another bee arrived and as I darted from flower to flower, so too did the bees. They make a frantic bzzz sound before landing, then silence as they dip head first into the flower, rolling their shiny bodies in golden pollen. No time to lollygag, they quickly emerge, darting to their next destination.

bee coated in pollen

A nice dip in the pool

Pumpkin plants produce several male flowers at the start of their growth. Within a few weeks the female flowers appear. Without those bees, all the flowers would eventually shrivel and die, leaving a healthy but fruitless vine.

pair of pumpkin flowers

A pair of male pumpkin flowers

What’s that buzz? It’s music to my gardening ears!

bee with glassy wings

Spreading glassy wings

bee ready for lift off

Ready for lift-off

bee and his shadow

A bee and its shadow

You can learn more about the critical role of pollinators at Pollinator Partnership.  The site has a fun, downloadable poster as well.

The Great Sunflower Project


Sunflower with small centerHave you heard of The Great Sunflower Project?  It’s “The world’s largest citizen science project focused on pollinator conservation.”  Simply put, ordinary citizens count bees in their yard and report it on the Sunflower Project site.

Gretchen LeBuhn, founder and director of the project, is a scientist in the biology department of San Francisco State University.  She started the project to collect data on the effects of pollination in our own back yards. The site features several interesting articles and videos.  You’ll also find reports on the collected data.  Details and links to the site are at the end of this post.

Bee in the LavenderWhy count bees?

Scientific studies show a decline in honey bee and native bee populations.  Bees are critical to agricultural success and really to life itself. The goal of this project is to obtain consistent results from urban, suburban and rural gardens throughout North America.

The Great Sunflower Project

People all over the country are collecting data on bee pollination in their yards, gardens, schools and parks. We take 15-minute counts of the number and types of bee visits to sunflowers (and other plants). We have been gathering information on pollinator service since 2008, and now have the largest single body of information about bee pollinator service in North America. Thanks to our thousands of observers, we can determine where pollinator service is strong or weak compared to averages.  (Source: greatsunflower.org)

My sunflowers are going to seed, so it’s too late for me to participate this season. I’m going to tuck this away for next spring, and hope others in North America are inspired to join me as well.

What you can do:

  • Plant Sunflowers, preferably Lemon Queen
  • Register and report findings on the site here.
  • Purchase seeds through Renee’s Garden.  She will donate 25% of her proceeds to the project.