Plant now for the Great Bee Count on August 11

It’s not too late to plant an enticing sunflower -- or a purple coneflower or two -- and have it blooming in time for the Great Bee Count of 2012, says San Francisco State University biologist Gretchen LeBuhn.

Le Buhn leads The Great Sunflower Project, a coast-to-coast effort by more than 100,000 citizen scientists. The participants plant a sunflower in their yard, garden or balcony and count how many bees they see on the plant during two 15-minute observations each month. All volunteers are encouraged to upload their bee counts to the project website on August 11, this year’s Great Bee Count.

A photo of Gretchen LeBuhn, leader of the Great Sunflower Project.

Gretchen LeBuhn is an associate professor of biology and creator of The Great Sunflower Project. (Photo: Noah Berger)

“I’d urge people to be sure to get their seeds planted in June,” LeBuhn, associate professor of biology, said. ‘It usually takes eight weeks to flower.”

The project suggests planting Lemon Queen sunflowers, cosmos, purple coneflower, tickseed and -- of course -- bee balm to bring these crucial pollinators into the backyard.

Now in its fourth year, the SF State project has collected enough data to determine where bees are frequent visitors and what sorts of environments seem to attract more bee visits. A map of 12,000 participating gardens also shows where more volunteer gardeners are needed.

-- University Communications