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Great Southeast Pollinator Census in North Carolina

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Poster for the Great Southeast Pollinator Census in North Carolina on August 23 and August 24, 2024

What is the Great Southeastern Pollinator Census?

The Great Southeast Pollinator Census is a simple citizen science project designed to take data over the course of two days in August to capture a snapshot of pollinator activity, pollinator presence, pollinator preference, and plant flowering phenology. It was designed to be doable by the general public, whether or not they knew the different insects.

The Great Southeast Pollinator Census was founded in Georgia by Becky Griffin with UGA Extension in 2017. It started as a modest pilot project to educate community garden managers and teachers about the importance to pollinators. It has since evolved into a multi-state program that inspires all sorts of citizen scientists to stop at least once during a two-day window in August to observe what pollinators are in their community.

Goals of the GSEPC

1. To create sustainable pollinator habitat by educating gardeners about using plants that provide nutrition for our pollinators while handling our summer droughts and do not have disease or pest insect pressure.

2. To increase the entomological literacy of our citizens. As I mentioned to one teacher, we want students to go from “oooo, it’s a bug” to “look at the tarsal claw on that bee! (cool diagram worksheet here, teachers)”

3. To generate useful data about our pollinator populations, so we can begin to spot trends and see how pollinator populations are affected by weather and how honey bees influence native bee populations.

How did it get to NC?

In October 2022, Amanda Wilkins, horticulture agent in Lee County, met Becky Griffin at a pollinator conference in Athens, GA, and was introduced to Alyssa McKim, who was then at NC A&T University. Alyssa and Amanda held a planning meeting and worked to do state-level outreach via webinars and media pushes, coordinating with Becky Griffin.

Who else is participating?

Georgia (2017), South Carolina (2022) and North Carolina participated in 2023, and Florida is joining the Count in 2024!

The Census is EVERYONE! You don’t have to be a insect expert or an amazing gardener to participate in the Census. It is to help everyone learn about insects and the importance of plants to pollinators. If you have an interest, this is for you!

How do you “do” the Census?

  • Identify a plant that has insects landing on it
  • Get an official datasheet, pencil and maybe a drink and chair
  • Fill out the basic information on the datasheet
  • Set a timer for 15 minutes
  • Put a tally mark next to the type of insect you see each time it lands on the plant (EVEN if you think it is the SAME insect)
  • After the 15 minutes is up, enter your data online at the QR code or URL at the top of the datasheet!

NOTE: If you have a VERY active plant, choose to watch a small section of it.
Two people can observe on the same plant in this case!

NOTE: Repeat as desired! You can do as many 15-minute sessions as you want!

Where do you “do” the Census?

Anywhere (in GA, SC, NC, or FL) where there is a plant that has pollinators landing on it!

This can be in your backyard, in a park, in a botanical garden, on a nature trail, or an attractive planter in a city center!

You do NOT have to ”do” it with a large group or event! But you can also reach out to your local N.C. Cooperative Extension County Center and see if they are hosting a Census event.

Are you hosting an event in your community? Let us know here so we can keep in touch and celebrate your pollinator successes!

Check out this Google Drive Folder for the Marketing Materials for the 2024 Season.

What if I missed it?

That is okay! You can sign up for the GSEPC newsletter to get alerts in the future. And, while the August dates are the only dates the official data is recorded on, you can use the Census model and protocol to help with any citizen science project in your community! It makes a simple project you can utilize for any pollinator education program for people of any level of experience!

How can I use the Census outside of the survey?

The Great Southeast Pollinator Census protocol is great a tool to use anytime you are doing a pollinator activity or learning opportunity! The data sheet is easy understand and communicates about different insects in an accessible way. Becky has created easy-to-adapt Powerpoints and has created guides and curricula for educators to utilize in their classes.

References and Resources

Main GSEPC Website


Knowledge is Pollinator Power Webinar with Dr. Danesha Seth-Carley, Dr. Hannah Levenson, and Dr. Matt Bertone

NC Participates in the Great Southeast Pollinator Census Webinar with N.C. Cooperative Extension- Lee County Center

Lunchtime Discovery: Saving Southeastern Pollinators With Citizen Science (NC Museum of Natural Sciences)

Pollinator Resources

Pollinator Haven Garden in Sanford, Lee County, NC

Pollinator Paradise Garden in Pittsboro, Chatham County, NC

The Pollinator Checklist: A Simple Citizen Science Tool From NC State Researchers

Ground-Nesting Bees Deserve to Be Appreciated, Not Mistaken for Yellow-Jackets

Success Stories

Extension Master Gardeners Across NC Participate in Inaugural Census in 2023

Media Coverage

Counting Pollinators for a Cause (NC State University Media)- 2023

Citizen science: participate in the 2023 Great Southeast Pollinator Census (Public Radio East)- 2023

NC Participates in Great Southeast Pollinator Census (Ag Clips)- 2023

Great Pollinator Census expands to include neighboring states (UGA CAES)- 2022

Chatham County 4-H Youth Participate in the Great Southeast Pollinator Census (N.C. Cooperative Extension)- 2023

Insects Count (Carolina Country)- 2024

A census for insects | Tracking pollinators in the Carolinas (WUNC Charlotte)- 2023

County residents encouraged to count pollinators (The Transylvania Times)- 2023