Citizens Abuzz Over Bee Data Collection Project

Jamie Johansen

beesCitizen scientists around the world are busy as bees for a University of Florida study. A global movement called “citizen science” is gaining traction, as scientists give lay people protocols so they can collect valid data.

In this case, participants build and monitor artificial nesting habitats suitable for solitary bees and wasps. Many bees and wasps live in social colonies. Solitary ones keep to themselves and nest in tunnels. Among methods used to build homes for the bees and wasps, participants drilled holes in wood, rock, cement or clay while others provided bamboo stems or other hollow tubes.

Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers used social media and websites to enroll and train citizen scientists for the project. Between April 2012 and July 2014, 655 people from 30 Florida counties, 39 states and 11 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Spain and Switzerland, registered for the Native Buzz in the project.

Results showed citizen scientists can build and monitor artificial nesting habitats for bees and wasps, a process that helps entomologists collect bee and wasp nesting data from a large geographic range.

“For me, the biggest takeaway was the level of public interest in this project,” said Jason Graham, a former UF doctoral student in entomology and nematology. While at UF, Graham worked in the lab of Jamie Ellis, a UF/IFAS associate professor in entomology and nematology and a bee expert. “People hear about the decline of pollinators, and they want to help in some way. This project provides them with a way to help and also learn more about the diversity of bees and wasps in their own backyard.”

Ag Group, bees, Research