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The Helianthus annuus, or “Lemon Queen,” has multiple flower heads from one stem and provides a long-lived supply of nectar and pollen.

Although there are many pollinators that visit our gardens and get the job done, the queen of the pollination game is the bee. Our bee population has been in serious decline now for a number of years. A quick foray into the world of Google will tell you that parasites, climate change, industrial agriculture leading to the use of bee-killing pesticides and the loss of diverse habitat all contribute to the decline of these critical insects. They pollinate 70 of the 100 or so crop species that feed 90% of the world.

Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough time, money or people to do an extensive study in any one small area, searching for answers. However, this is where you can help. Here are two Citizen Scientist Projects that involve public participation and will prove to be fun for all ages.

The first project is the Great Georgia Pollinator Census, or GGaPC. Many Georgia county extension offices are taking part in the Pollinator Census on Aug. 23 or Aug. 24. Coordinated by UGA Extension, this will be the first of its kind in our state. Come join our Master Gardeners of Cherokee County and help record the number and types of pollinators that visit our gardens during late summer. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an entomologist or bug guru to participate. Just come ready to count visitors on one plant for 15 minutes. We will provide the data sheets and help you with plant and visitor identification.

The second project is the Great Sunflower Project/Backyard Bee Count. All sunflowers are beneficial to bees. But in 2008, an email was sent to people in the southeastern U.S. asking for volunteers willing to plant the Helianthus annus “Lemon Queen” sunflower and then count the number of pollinators visiting them. Lemon Queen has multiple flower heads from one stem, is easy to grow and the plant itself has hundreds to thousands of tiny flowers. Each day, more buds open and provide a long-lived supply of nectar and pollen.

How can you participate in the Great Georgia Pollinator Census?

1. On Aug. 24, join the Cherokee County Master Gardeners at the demo garden at The Senior Center, 1001 Univeter Road in Canton, or The Ball Ground Botanical Garden.

2. Both gardens will have guided census counting times, so show up a little early for parking and instructions.

3. Master Gardeners will be available to assist with every step of the count.

How can you participate in the Great Sunflower Project/Backyard Bee Count?

1. Come to the Demo Garden at The Senior Center on Sept. 14.

2. Guided census counting times of five minutes will take place from 9 a.m. until noon during the plant sale.

3. Master Gardeners will be available to assist with every step of the count.

As you may know, many different types of pollinators — bees, butterflies, ants, beetles, wasps, moths, hummingbirds, bats and, yes, some flies — provide pollination for plants that are very important to humans and responsible for:

♦ 1/3 of the food you eat (that means every third bite you take)

♦ Approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, spices, fibers and medicines, and

♦ 75% of all flowering plants.

For more information about the Great Georgia Pollinator Census, visitggapc.org.

For more information about the Great Sunflower Project/Backyard Bee Count, visit greatsunflower.org. Both sites have identification cards and downloadable information. You can do additional pollinator counts at any time on any plant in another selected site, park or your own backyard. Plus, you are providing invaluable data for the health of plants and pollinators vital to our state.

The bees and other pollinators are counting on you!

Jennifer Ruscilli is one of many UGA Master Gardener Extension Volunteers of Cherokee County. For more information or questions contact the Cherokee County Extension Office at 770-721-7803 or for upcoming seminars follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cherokeemastergardeners or on our website at cherokeemastergardenersinc.wildapricot.org.

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