The Project works by sending a sunflower seed packet to all the individual volunteers who sign up on The Great Sunflower Website to get one and agree to collect data on the bees attracted by the flowers. I'm pleased and proud to have been selected to write the packet to ensure growing success and provide the sunflower seeds for The Sunflower Project' s 2009 seed packet. When the these seeds are sown, grow and flower, the volunteers will be observing and reporting on the bees that visit them, using standardized data sheets that are then sent back to the Project for analysis.
Currently, 40,000 American and Canadian volunteers ranging from preschoolers to master gardeners and from rural, suburban and metropolitan locations are participating.
With the help of her students Fern Canton and Shannon Messerly, Dr. LeBuhn is looking forward to getting a wide range of data about urban bee populations that would not otherwise be available: "We have grown a ‘virtual’ community of teachers, community gardeners, nature center staff, beekeepers, pollinator enthusiasts, retirees, home schooling groups and parents interested in participating in a project with their children. If everyone plants seeds this year, we will have sunflower samples from the Arctic Circle to the tip of Florida and west to Hawaii and east to Puerto Rico!"
You can see a map with about 25,000 of the locations on the Great Sunflower Project Website http://www.greatsunflower.org/
Last year, the project had the misfortune to use a sunflower species from another seed company that didn't germinate at all well and was very disappointing. This season, Dr. LeBuhn came to me looking for a sunflower that was produces pollen, has multiple flower heads and was easy to grow and attractive. I settled on a wonderful old-fashioned variety called "Lemon Queen" and have written the packet back expressly for beginning gardeners since many of the folks who are participating in the project haven't had much garden experience. Today I finally sent the packets off to the printer to start things rolling and ordered the seeds to be shipped for filling the packets once they are produced.
In addition to personally contributing in building an important database about bees, participants can really learn about both honey bees and lesser-known native species. Besides, it's really fun to be part of a big effort like this! I'd like to encourage everybody to go to their website and sign up to do this project!
Purchase Lemon Queen Sunflowers