Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Great Sunflower Project

Last year I joined the Great Sunflower Project. Which despite its name is not about sunflowers but about bees. It is a huge research project on bee populations. Basically what they did was let anyone sign up to help out. They would send you seed for the particular sunflower they want you to use. You grow them and count how many bees come to visit the flowers in a given amount of time.

That was the theory in any case. In reality I never got my seeds. They said they were on the way, so I waited. And waited. It turns out a lot of people didn't get seed or the seed didn't germinate. There are over 26,000 people participating, so it is not surprising that not everything went right. I was sad that I didn't get to participate since I feel understanding our bees better is a worthy goal.

I have another chance this year. I just got an email from them saying the hunt was on again. So I duely confirmed my address and am hoping for the seeds of "Lemon Queen" sunflowers to show up on my doorstep in about a month. I'll count bees during the summer and in the fall the birds will be happy.


  1. That sounds like a very worthy project. We have lost 7 hives to colony colapse disorder and am very concerned about the bee population.

    Are they wanting honey bee counts or native bees?


  2. They want all bees (no wasps or bee flies) and if you can tell them apart they want you to say which they are.

  3. I was saddened last year when I saw so very few bees in my garden. It was only toward the end of the season that I did I see some. I'm planning on interplanting a variety of flowers with my vegetables this year to hopefully attract them again.

  4. I just read about this in one of the heirloom vegetables books I have read. It really is a great idea.

  5. I signed up last year but also got no seeds. Better luck this year, for us joining the project, and more importantly, for the bees!

  6. Daphne, that's such a great idea! I had tons of bees last year, but would like to get something like that started here....


  7. Daphne,

    It cool you participate in that- very important to take care of our bees. Last year was the first time I've ever grown sunflowers, and Lemon Queen was one of them! The birds loved them, especially finches!

  8. Annie's Granny, I had to hand pollinate my zucchini early in the year due to lack of bees. By the end of the year all kinds of bees were swarming the garden. I had trouble picking squash blossoms because I had to get the bees out of them first.

    Dan, hmm I wonder how long it has been in existence.

    Jess Trev, I'm thinking if the seeds don't arrive early, I may just buy my own. Everything else is online anyway.

    EG, sign up. I think they only send seed to US and Canada, but they will take info from anywhere in the world. If you have room for some sunflowers, go for it. I think you are supposed to count at least once a week when the flowers are in bloom. It takes 30 minutes (or less if you have lots of bees).

    Tessa, I love that they are doing Lemon Queen. Last year they did a wild sunflower that had small blooms. Most people want BIG sunflowers for their garden. I like that the birds get fed too.

  9. Hi Daphne, this sounds like a worthwhile thing to do. What a shame it didn't pan out last year. There have been articles written about the fewer bees, etc. The opposite is true here in my back yard. For a couple of years there were only bumblebees, but the last two years we had honeybees galore. I wonder if someone in the neighborhood has some hives. We do have tons of flowers that the bees love. Funny though, the sunflowers have not done well. Maybe I will give the Lemon Queen a try. Thanks for the heads up on this.

  10. It must have been for a while, I read about it in Heirloom Vegetables by Sue Stickland and it was published in 1998.

  11. I had a mix of sunflowers, and the bees really liked them. In fact, there are bees on some sunflowers on my August in my vegetable garden post.

    I hope you get to participate this year, and let us know how it goes.

  12. Thanks for letting us in on this Daphne. I have been noticing the dwindling number of bees to my garden(s) over the past couple of years. I just signed myself up and look forward to participating.