Count all the pollinators! GA census needs volunteers

The Clemson Tigers may be my team’s rivals (Go Dawgs!), but their college has earned some love from you. Our neighbors to the northeast are joining my favorite citizen science project of the year, the Greater Georgia Pollinator Census. Clemson University is now working with UGA Extension to get as much pollinator information as we ordinary people can gather on August 19-20 of this year.

As this is our fourth year of counting pollinators, we are finally collecting real data.

  • The number of people registered has increased from 4,700 in 2019 to 5,950 in 2021.
  • In three years, our investigators counted 324,000 insect visits.
  • Classes from 75 Georgia schools participated in the past year count.

With South Carolina coming this year, I know a lot more kids are going to get involved.

Birds, bees, breeze help make seeds

What is pollination and why is it important? The simple explanation of pollination is the act of transferring pollen from the male part of the plant (anther) to the female part of the plant (stigma), so that a seed can be produced. Seeds make new plants, which is the purpose of all living organisms. Flowers are the tools that make this possible. Pollen must pass from one species of plant to another plant to produce seeds. Pollination can be done by wind (pine or corn), water, birds, bats and a variety of insects like moths, butterflies, wasps, flies and bees. Animals that pollinate are called pollinators.

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When a pollinator passes a plant flower to feed or bask, the tiny pollen particles stick to the insect and when the animal moves to the next plant, the pollen does the same. With lots of flowers and lots of insects traveling great distances, it’s a numbers game on which plants are pollinated.

About 30% of all food production is directly linked to pollinators. Every third bite on your plate, we have a pollinator to thank. And we do our best to get as much information as possible to find the best practices for creating and maintaining existing pollinator habitat.

Fifteen minutes is enough

The cool thing about this project is that you don’t have to be an entomologist to participate.

Here’s how to participate. Go to the website and watch the 3 minute video. Sign up for the county of Georgia where you will observe. Print the census form and get ready for August 19 and 20. With the form in hand, you will find a plant or group of flowers that are buzzing with insects. For 15 minutes you will search for the particular types of insects listed on the form. The best times of day to see many of these flower lovers are from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

You don’t have to tell the difference between an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and a Polydamas Swallowtail, you’ll just need to mark “butterfly” on the line. The same goes for other categories like wasps, flies and bees. There’s a fantastic identification guide on the website to help you out.

The census is designed for anyone in Georgia and South Carolina to participate. There’s all sorts of great information on the website that dives deeper into pollinators and the census, so check it out. There is also a Georgia Pollinator Census Facebook page that is full of great photos and information. You can also count more than once.

Now go out and count a little. Bring a friend too.

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