Get Ready For the Backyard Bee Count!


Populations of bees and other pollinators have been in trouble in recent years, with scientists speculating that habitat loss may be a key reason. San Francisco State University biologist Gretchen LeBuhn has been studying habitat fragmentation, which occurs when buildings, highways and other features of the urban landscape disrupt bees’ habitats such that bees “often cannot find the resources they need to survive or are limited in their mobility,” according to Science Daily.

To get a better sense of the population and ecosystems of bees and other pollinators, LeBuhn launched The Great Sunflower Project in 2008. Nearly 100,000 volunteers counted the bees they found in their garden or yard annually in two 15-minute observations per month. They then reported the data on LeBuhn’s website.

Science Daily sums up the results:

Analyzing observations from 12,000 gardens, LeBuhn has found that urban areas have much fewer visits from bees than other habitats. Volunteers in urban gardens reported finding an average of 23.3 bees per hour, compared to 30.4 per hour in rural areas and 31.6 in forests and wildlands. Volunteers in desert areas reported an average of 31.9 bees per hour.

This year, starting on August 11, LeBuhn and her team of researchers are planning to start The Backyard Bee Count and asking people to count bees in their yards and gardens. In particular, they are looking for data from areas where bee populations are healthy, to see if there is a “tipping point” at which urbanization can fragment” bee populations enough, to the point of causing decline. LeBuhn also wants to focus the count on desert areas where the diversity of bees is high.

The data from LeBuhn’s earlier project revealed that, across the US, bee sightings can range from zero to more than 30 bees per hour, depending on the size of gardens. The largest gardens were found to have the most bee visits, between 30 and 40 per hour on average, while smaller gardens had an average of 25 bees. Just having pots with flowers on your patio meant an average of 13 bee sightings per hour. In a surprising finding, urban community gardens had an average of 41.9 sightings per hour.

LeBuhn’s website explains which plants are bee-friendly (Sunflowers (preferably, Lemon Queen), Bee balm, Cosmos, Tickseed or Purple coneflower) if you’d like to invite bees into your yard and take part in the Great Backyard Bee Count.


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Photo by daryl_mitchell

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Lynn D.
Lynn D.3 years ago

Never ever heard of this and sounds really interesting --- I've only seen one GREAT BIG HONEY BEE all year here in Rochester, MI. Thanks for article

Jane Warren
Jane Warren3 years ago

thnx for this

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch3 years ago

I have seen a mass die off, lately. One day I noticed a very large amount of bees flying around, and the next, there were hundreds lying dead on my balcony.

I have no idea what caused the die-off. (I know there was no insecticide used in my neighborhood).

Laurie T.
Laurie T.3 years ago

I'm a bit surprised that this article doesn't include the bee mite infestation that's altering the formation of honey, around the world. My Aussie hubby passed along a recent documentary broadcast about how this little mite attacks bees and through their contamination, alters a bee's biological system and in turn, bees are dieing off faster than their normal life cycle, as well as producing an altered honey. At the moment, Australians are breeding untouched healthy bees and exporting them to other countries around the world, as this documentary states that Australian honey bees are, so far, untouched by this mite.

nicola w.
Jane H.3 years ago

Fewer bees here in Australia , more introduced european wasps though.

Isabel A.
Isabel Araujo3 years ago

Less bees in my garden this year than the past one.

Juliet Defarge
judith sanders3 years ago

Every time I think i see a bee, it turns out to be a yellow jacket.

Please take a sec to look at this site and see how many insects there are that mimic bees- it could be that you aren't seeing any honeybees, after all.

ii q.
g d c.3 years ago


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

I've seen more this year than in a long time.

Troy G.
Troy Grant3 years ago

Would our fear of killer bees be driving people to nuke them with insecticides?