Last spring,with the help of Karen Retra, a local permaculture teacher and native bee naturalist, I trialled a wild pollinator count citizen science event. It started off as an experiment – both of us were passionate about wild pollinators and keen to encourage people to think outside the ‘pollinators are just bees’ box. So we organised a week-long ‘wild pollinator count’ for residents in our region (southern New South Wales and north-east Victoria).
The inspiration came from similar counts overseas, like the UK’s Big Butterfly Count and USA’s Great Sunflower Project. There was an opportunity to create a similar event here, and this style of citizen science is a great way to engage people beyond the ‘active’ amateur naturalists and science fans. Time-and-Place events, like local bioblitzes or museum-based events, may not connect with everyone who is interested if they don’t have time or money to attend. In contrast, backyard citizen science has the potential to engage more people, as it allows people to participate in their own time.
We received positive feedback, and we also realised how many people were interested in wild pollinators, but lacked the resources/knowledge to identify different types of pollinators ‘on the wing’. This year, we updated the website with a new look, more resources, and even our own logo! We plan to run the count bi-annually, in April and November. This will hopefully allow participants to see some seasonal variation in wild pollinator communities – wild pollinators tend to be thought of much less in autumn and winter when their activity is shifting from foraging to nesting and overwintering.
The count is open to Australian residents only, but we plan to build a great Resources page for anyone interested in wild pollinator conversation. Also have a look at our latest blog post on tips for a pollinator-friendly garden. Happy counting!
© Manu Saunders 2015