The Gardiner Lab at The Ohio State University's Department of Entomology has launched Dandelion Detectives, a youth-focused community science program aimed at measuring the distribution of weeds in US lawns and their value for insects. The lab is seeking individuals, school groups, and other youth organizations to participate in this collaborative project!
Did you know that over 4,000 types of bees live in North America? Some of the best-known bees are honey bees and bumble bees that live in colonies. These species have a queen and many workers that take care of the colony by collecting pollen and nectar to feed developing bees, or larvae. There are also many species of solitary bees that do not live together in colonies, but instead build individual nests in the soil, hollow twigs, or even in wooden decks or roofs! All bees rely on flowers that produce pollen and nectar as their food source and need to collect these resources to feed their developing larvae. Bees get the energy they need from the carbohydrates in nectar, and the protein they need to grow from pollen. As bees collect pollen and nectar from flowers, they provide humans with a critical ecosystem service by pollinating our crops and the trees and flowers we see outside. Without bees, our forests and gardens would lose many types of plants, and we would not be able to eat fruits, vegetables, or nuts like apples, squash, or almonds.
Unfortunately, many types of bees are declining in the United States and scientists want to know why! One possibility is that bees do not have enough food to eat. Weeds could be an important food source for bees and other insects like butterflies, beetles and ants. We need your help as part of our scientific team to see if bees and other insects will feed from common weeds in a yard. If so, these weeds might not be all bad after all! We are focusing on nectar in this experiment because it provides insects with energy to do all the things they need to do to survive.
How You Can Get Involved
Dandelion Detectives is seeking school age kids (targeting 3-7th graders) to monitor an “Observation Dandelion” and collect data about the richness of blooming weeds (or lack thereof) found in their yard. Dandelion Detectives will take place over the summer of 2020 and is open to anyone who has access to a yard or other mown greenspace like a park or playground.
The project can be completed in one day and involves: taking a pre and post questionnaire about insects; observing insects at an “Observation Dandelion” created using simple provided materials and sugar water mixture; and conducting a lawn weed survey. Participating Dandelion Detectives will be able to upload their findings to a project website. At the end of the project, students will receive a “Student Scientist” certificate and will have access to all of the data collected by the project team!
Toolkits containing all materials to participate in Dandelion Detectives can be ordered for $10 (to cover shipping fees). There is also offer a do-it-yourself option here.
If you’d like to participate and become a Dandelion Detective, you can sign up at: https://u.osu.edu/dandeliondetectives/sign-up/
Dandelion Detectives is supported by the OSU Integrated Pest Management Program through funding from the USDA NIFA Crop Protection and Pest Management Competitive Grants Program (2017-70006-27174).