Great Southeastern Pollinator Census
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“Pollinators are under threat.” We hear it more and more from scientists and the news. If you haven’t heard, you’ve probably at least noticed that your windshield has stayed a lot cleaner over the last couple of decades. What is important to understand from this is that our survival as humans is linked with insect diversity and survival. How do scientists know insect populations are declining (besides the cleaner windshields)? They count them!
Now, scientists aren’t out there counting each and every one in an ecosystem. That is a Herculean task at least. At any given time there are about 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) insects on Earth at any given time, according to the Entomological Society of America (ESA). More than 60 percent of the total species in the world are insects, with estimates speculating there are between 3-6 million species left to describe! Needless to say, that is a lot, and scientists need all the help they can get!
How can you help?
Queue the Great Southeast Pollinator Census! This simple citizen science project is an easy gateway for anyone interested in helping scientists. It is only two days each year. This year (2023) it is August 18 and 19.
All participants do is observe a plant that has pollinators visiting it for 15 minutes and tally each time an insect lands on the plant using the pre-designed datasheet (available for free download on the Census website). The datasheet has pictures of
what each insect is, so you don’t even have to know the names of the insects! Upload your counts to the GSEPC website afterwards using the QR code at the top of the page. That’s it!
You can do it anywhere where there is a plant with insects visiting it: your garden, a local park, a nature trail, or a botanical garden. You can take a Census on as many plants as you want within the two-day window.
Where can folks in Lee County do the Census together?
Folks in Lee County are in for a treat! There are so many places you can do the Census in Lee County! Besides your backyard, garden or woods, you can bring your datasheet and visit one of our local parks. Check out one of our local nurseries to see what is in flower! You can go observe at San-Lee Park’s Pollinator Garden or come to the Extension Office to observe in the Pollinator Haven Garden. The Extension Master Gardener volunteers of Lee County will be on hand at the Pollinator Haven Garden during two windows on August 18, from 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m., and at the Sanford Farmers’ Market on August 19, 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. They will also be at the Pollinator Haven Garden on the afternoon of August 19, from 2-4 p.m.
Where did the Census come from?
The Great Southeast Pollinator Census is a new program to North Carolina in 2023! This is the first time NC residents can contribute to the dataset. Becky Griffin at UGA Extension started the Census in Georgia in 2017 as a pilot program with local community gardens and schools. She realized gardeners were excited to learn about the plants, but were oftentimes oblivious to the insects in their gardens, beyond the ones that were pests. She devised the Census program to raise awareness and literacy around insects in the garden, and to empower everyday citizens to use their powers of observation to gather data for scientific research. The Census website contains the data from past years and the research papers that have been published using those data.
We hope you can join us this year by counting insects in this year’s Census. If you have questions about the Census or how you can incorporate the Census into programming with your organization, please contact Amanda Wilkins at N.C. Cooperative Extension- Lee County Center at 919-775-5624 or firstname.lastname@example.org.