Happy 4th of July!
Using other sunflowers. We have been thinking about how to incorporate other sunflowers into our study for those of you who have struggled with germination. While the data from other sunflowers can't be compared to the main study, we can use the information about which bees are coming in and, if we have enough people who planted the same variety, we can compare those to one another. So, while the most important data you can collect will be from the sunflowers that we sent you, if you have another sunflower in your garden in bloom, you can use it for your samples. We have created a category called "other sunflower" on the data page for this purpose. Data from these flowers will be most useful if you can also tell us the name of the variety of sunflower (what was on the seed packet). You can write this down in the comment section on the data sheet. This is important for us to know because some sunflowers don't even produce pollen.
If you have extra time and have both our sunflowers and another sunflower in your garden, you could help us calibrate these other sunflowers by taking a sample from our sunflower and another sunflower in the garden. By comparing what you get at the different sunflowers, we can start to come up with something like an exchange rate.
I do want to reinforce that the data from our sunflowers is more useful. Even if you are getting many more bees on a different sunflower, what happens on the sunflower that we sent can be compared to all the others in the study. You only need one plant to collect data!
Sampling We'd prefer people sample during the first and third weeks of July. If that doesn't work for you, please try to do one count in the first half of the month and one in the second half. For the native species, adult bees are only above ground for 3-6 weeks. This means that you have different bee species in your garden every couple weeks.
Pollen Nation I was invited to give a talk in the Napa Valley last night and shared the billing with the filmmakers of Pollen Nation. This is a fabulous short film about the commercial honey bee business. It's brilliant. I came away really thinking about how important small mixed use agriculture is to maintaining healthy bee populations. Bees do much better when they are able to have a varied diet rather than a monoculture. In my garden, I try to have flowers blooming from early spring to late fall. Those early and late flowers really help because that is when food resources are low for bees.
Enjoy the Fourth!