Volunteers are being asked to stop and look at the flowers this Saturday — to count bees.
The event is part of the nationwide Great Bee Count, now in its sixth year. It's part of the Great Sunflower Project, which is directed by Gretchen LeBuhn, a professor of biology at San Francisco State University.
LeBuhn said the project has gathered valuable information from the Great Bee Count, but in looking at the data from last year she realized almost all of the information came from people's backyards, which are just a sliver of where the important pollinators live and collect pollen.
So in a change this year, the count will include all pollinators on any type of plant that an observer is able to identify in any space.
The nationwide bee count collects information that seeks to understand what is happening to bees on a nationwide scale, LeBuhn said.
Honeybees have been dying in mass numbers, including so-called colony collapse, but the exact causes have been hard for scientists to nail down. A 2012 report from SFSU researchers pointed to a parasitic fly. A more recent study by researchers from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture pointed to a toxic mixture of pesticides and fungicides that pollutes the pollen the bees bring back to the hive.
The bee die-off has worried scientists and farmers since honeybees pollinate a large portion of the food humans produce.
LaBuhn said that the more information gathered by such events as the Great Bee Count will allow for limited money to be spent on conservation by understanding where the funds are most needed.
Anyone interested in participating in the count can go to the website www.greatsunflower.org for information and to upload the numbers from their count.