Groups hope to count bees
The inaugural "Sonoma Summer Bee Count" will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12.
The public is invited to participate. The bee count is the latest endeavor of Cittaslow Pollinator Stewards Collaborative, known as "Pollinator Pals," to educate the public about the demise of pollinators and their critical importance to local food production.
Pollinator Pals is a partnership project of Cittaslow Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Ecology Center, along with a broad array of community service organizations, businesses and educators. In the past, Pollinator Pals has focused on the well-studied honeybee, with this latest endeavor, the collaborative is shifting focus to the less well known, but equally important, native bee.
The bee count will be guided by the West Coast's most respected native bee experts, professor Gordon Frankie and research assistant Marissa Ponder from the Urban Bee Lab at U.C. Berkeley. Frankie is a research entomologist in the division of Insect Biology, College of Natural Resources. His specialty is behavioral ecology of solitary bees in wildland and urban environments of California and Costa Rica. He also teaches conservation and environmental problem-solving. Ponder graduated with a bachelor's in conservation and resource studies from U.C. Berkeley and has been a member of the Urban Bee Lab since 2007.
This bee count is a carefully orchestrated "citizen-science" event requiring training on Saturday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is an opportunity to learn to recognize types of bees and different bee behavior via slides, lectures and hands-on experience. Covered topics include conservation of bees and other insects that visit flowers, why bees are important, statewide findings on the bee/flower relationship and more.
Participants will also use microscopes or hand lenses to get up-close-and personal and will learn the procedures for counting bees in the field.
On Sunday, June 12, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., trained field teams will put their new knowledge to work at one of three locations in Sonoma. Researchers from the Urban Bee Lab will work with each team to provide on-site assistance and identification. Since many native bees look similar, samples obtained from the count will be sent to U.C. Davis for accurate identification. Participants will also prepare bee study boxes with sample bees to illustrate the findings of the day for use in future classroom projects. Following the count participants will reconvene to turn in their data and celebrate their accomplishments with an appreciation party until 5 p.m. The information collected will form the baseline against which the Cittaslow Pollinator Pals Collaborative, Sonoma Ecology Center and the Urban Bee Lab at U.C. Berkeley will begin to look at long-term patterns - are native bee populations gaining, losing or staying about the same in Sonoma Valley? Survey results will be posted on the Sonoma Ecology Center's website.
A nominal fee of $30 will be charged, which includes lunch on Saturday, refreshments on Sunday and all resource material. On Saturday, bring paper and pen for note taking; and on Sunday, a refillable water bottle and sack lunch. Whole Foods Sonoma is donating Saturday's lunch and Sunday refreshments.
A limited number of participants can be accommodated. Age is limited to those 16 years and up. Saturday training is mandatory for Sunday's participation in the bee count. Proceeds benefit continued citizen education projects sponsored by Cittaslow Pollinator Pals Collaborative.
Contact Shelley Arrowsmith, co-chair of Cittaslow Pollinator Pals, at 935-3420, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in becoming part of this first ever event.