Gretchen LeBuhn, the associate professor of biology at San Francisco State University, directs The Great Sunflower Project. Saturday is national Great Bee Count Day, and LeBuhn is asking volunteers to count bees in their backyards. To join, visit www.greatsunflower.org.
Can you explain the importance of this project? There is evidence that the number of honeybees and native bees are declining. Bees are important to our food supply, to people that like to garden or have beautiful flowers, and even to keep our ecosystem healthy. This is the first and the biggest survey of the status of pollinators.
What do volunteers do? It gives people information about their own local environment. Volunteers benefit by not only learning something about their own backyard, but by contributing to the bigger project.
What is the most common question volunteers have? Volunteers are always asking if they have to count yellow jackets because they hate them. It ends up that yellow jackets are not bees at all, they are wasps. The difference is that all besides one type of bee are vegetarians. The reason that yellow jackets are always after your picnic site is because they are probably looking for meat. They are garbage collectors.