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Count Bees in Your Back Yard to Aid Scientists

Citizen scientists are asked to count living bees and collect dead bees for two separate projects.

Biologists at San Francisco State University are running a nationwide survey of bee populations to determine greater trends across the country in both healthy bees and zombie-like bees. 

It has been shown over the last five years that healthy bees are found far more densely in rural areas than urban areas. According to Philip Riley of SFSU Communications, "urban features such as buildings and parks fragment or destroy bee habitats, making their job of pollinating plants much more difficult."

Scientists at the school now aim for another round of data thanks to the willing participation of people all over the country.

All they ask is that you sit in your garden for at least 15 minutes and count the bees that you see. You can do this any time in the next few days, but Aug. 11 has been designated as "The Great Bee Count." All the information you need to participate can be found here.

While you're counting buzzing bees, the school also asks for people to collect and send in dead bees. A project dubbed Zombee Watch started by biology professor John Hafernik, the school’s biology department and Computing for the Life Sciences launched ZomBeeWatch.org, which is an ongoing project to track parasitized honeybees. They've already collected one dead bee sample from someone in Redwood City, and are processing one sent in from Mountain View.

Zombees are those parasitized by the Apocephalus borealis fly. These bees abandon their hives, gather near outside lights and before dying move in increasingly erratic circles. The phenomenon was discovered last year by Hafernik and his colleagues, and are asking for help in gathering dead bees, or reporting of no dead bees to help them develop data.

“We’re hoping to enlist people now.  Even if they sign up and say ‘I’m looking, but haven’t found anything’ that’s helpful to the researchers,” says spokesman Jonathon Morales.

In 2011, over 100,000 people participated in the healthy bee count across the country. Already in Cupertino, about four residents have counted bees. Check out the map above to see who has already participated. Pink dots indicate that the person saw 1-10 bees in an hour of observation, blue dots indicate 20-30 bees per hour and green dots indicate over 30 bees per hour.

Additional reporting by Claudia Cruz and Anne Ernst

Do you have bees in your garden? Are you willing to help in The Great Bee Count? Tell us in the comments!

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