On Aug. 23 and 24, citizen scientists all across Georgia will be participating in Georgia’s first statewide pollinator count: The Great Georgia Pollinator Census. Pollinator health is a hot topic right now and despite the critical role pollinating insects play in agriculture and the natural world, we really don’t know who the major players are in the state and what their populations look like. At least, not yet.
To answer that question, UGA Extension is spearheading the state’s first attempt at capturing data across the state to document a snapshot of our pollinator populations, health and distributions. Other goals include increasing sustainable pollinator habitat and increasing the entomological literacy of Georgia citizens. We want people to go from “Oh, no! Run, it’s a bee!” to “Wow, that bumblebee’s corbicula is completely full of pollen – cool!”
A lot of research, education and outreach has been done across the state to prepare for this amazing event. In 2017 and 2018, pilot projects were conducted on community and school gardens. The results of the pilot projects allowed UGA Extension to improve the counting strategy and to create educational materials for gardeners and teachers. Many schools used the pilot projects as part of their STEM work, including Liberty Elementary School. FFA students from Liberty County High School have also collaborated with the Liberty County Extension office to create pollinator habitat and collect research data on the eastern monarch butterfly.
The Census is less than a week away, but there is still time to participate. All Georgians are invited to be part of this project! The project website (ggapc.org) contains all the information a citizen needs to participate. One the website you will find Insect Identification and Counting Guides, which further explain the details of the project.
On the census dates people are encouraged to pick a favorite pollinator plant from their garden to use for counting. This plant should have many blooms that are attracting insects. For 15 minutes participants will count the insects landing on their plant and put them in the following categories:
• Bumble bees
• Carpenter bees
• Honey bees
• Small bees
• Other insects
You don’t have to be an entomologist to participate – we are not looking for species level identification! Again, the Insect Identification & Counting Guide gives you all the tools needed to tell a bee from a fly and a bumble bee from a carpenter bee.
For those excited about learning more about these insects, Extension’s Georgia Pollinator Census Facebook page shares educational snippets daily and provides a platform for insect discussion. The website also has information on building pollinator habitat as well as information about pollinator events going on around the state. After counting, participants will upload their counts to the website. Just remember, for the data to be included for the research project, you much collect the data on Aug. 23 or 24.
Pollinator conservation is important to everyone from apartment dwellers to farmers. Homeowners will learn through this project that many of our native bees forage in a small area, 300-500 ft², and if the bees’ needs are met they will stay and provide valuable ecosystem services for that homeowner.
For example, did you know that we rely on bees and other pollinators for many of our summer vegetables? Squash and watermelons are insect pollinated, so if you aren’t getting a good yield, then there may be a pollinating issue. By being more involved and conscious of what our pollinators need, we can make a real and lasting difference in pollinator protection.
Again, anyone is welcome to participate in the census, so don’t miss this chance to be a part of Georgia pollinator history! Don’t want to count alone? No worries! You’re welcome to join Liberty County Extension’s counting event at Keep Liberty County Beautiful’s Pollinator Garden, located behind the library at the Midway Community Complex.
The Liberty Extension Office’s 4-H Youth Development Agent, Gabi Wall, is coordinating the event. She will be at the garden from 9-10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 23 and Saturday, Aug. 24 helping our Citizen Scientists with their counts. She will also have resources and pollinator plant seeds so you can start your own pollinator space at home.
For more event information contact the Liberty County Extension Office at 912-876-2133 or email Gabi at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Facebook to view event information and get updates: https://www.facebook.com/LibertyCounty4H.
Won’t you join us?