by Alex Burr
Bees and other animals are pollinators, and pollinators are crucial to keeping plants, animals, and us alive. Without pollinators, we would be unable to grow 75% of the food grown in the US daily, including all the sweet fruits you love and all the bad vegetables your parents probably make you eat. For this reason, it is necessary to identify places pollinators can visit frequently in order to increase conservation efforts there.
Pollinators are broadly defined as any species that transfers pollen from one plant to another plant of the same species. Plants have both the pollen (analogous to sperm in males) and the stigma (analogous to an egg in females) needed to fertilize itself. While some plants are able to fertilize themselves without outside help, 80-90% of all flowering plant species cannot. They need another organism, a vector (like a bee), to transfer pollen to the stigma and fertilize the plant.
Count Flowers for Bees is a collection of photos of Ireland’s countryside, where there are many flowering plants that need vectors (aka cross-pollinating plants). The research team that took these photographs needs your help in counting the total number of each kind of flower in each picture. When you count these flowers, the research team is able to identify the areas most populated with cross-pollinating flowers that therefore need conservation efforts the most. Without these conservation efforts, humankind could lose many of the flowering plants and/or the vectors they need to create food. This project is important because it concerns the very pollinators we all need to create the majority of our food, and without food humankind cannot survive (we think).