Citizen science in the garden, observe bumblebees and butterflies
Does the ballet of insects collecting nectar and pollen hold you spellbound? Did you know they enable the sexual reproduction of 90% of flowering plants, and therefore the production of the fruits and seeds that are essential to our diet? To get to know them better and help preserve them, researchers have set up two observatories on the citizen science in the garden website: one devoted to pollinating bumblebees and the other to butterflies.
Pollinators are vital to ecosystems, and without them we would be left with hardly any fruit or vegetables on our tables! Among them, bumblebees and butterflies deserve particular recognition for their daily toil, even though they are among the victims of biodiversity under pressure: destruction and fragmentation of their habitat, climate change, environmental pollution, etc.
The flight of the bumblebee
Their buzz is getting fainter and fainter, gradually disappearing into silence. In 2014, 24% of European bumblebee species were on the IUCN Red List, i.e. threatened with extinction! And yet, an American study has given rise to new hope: bumblebees could flourish in big cities... provided that greenery is reintroduced!
Gather and fertilise!
The pollinator extraordinaire is undoubtedly the bumblebee. The main asset of this behind-the-scenes worker is its long tongue, which allows it to penetrate deep into the heart of flowers. Unlike its honeybee cousins, it covers all flowering periods, even in cold and rainy weather. Thanks to its fur, it is able to transport and disseminate more pollen than all of them put together. Many berries (strawberries, raspberries, etc.) and other plants would struggle to reproduce if it disappeared.
Not to be outdone, the butterfly is an equally valuable back-up pollinator. Its secret weapon? Its proboscis, furling and unfurling over the course of its travels. It feeds itself mainly on nectar. Hence its appetite for plants that provide this sweet liquid, such as lavender and clover.
Two simple actions can help preserve ecosystems: banning pesticides and allowing nectar-rich plants to grow. Start with your garden! Did you know that these little green space cover quite a significant area when put together? In fact, they make up 16 to 47% of the total green areas in European cities, and over 50% in the Île-de-France department!
Count and share
Watching these pollinators at work delights young and old alike, but locating, counting and describing them is a real help in learning more about them. Join the Observatory of pollinating bumblebees and butterflies in gardens! Through this citizen science program, you can help researchers understand the impact of urbanisation, climate conditions and gardening practices on these species. You don’t have to be a specialist to participate! Once you have selected and described your corner of greenery (private garden, public park, balcony, etc.) you can start observing. For our two pollinators, the counting period is the same: from March to October. With the help of a data sheet, you can easily identify the different types located. Then, the protocol changes. Bumblebees, recognisable by the pattern, width and colour of the stripes on their bodies, are observed at least once a month, for 5 consecutive minutes, depending on your availability. Butterflies, which can be identified by their colour, size and wing eye spots (golden circles with a black centre), must be examined every week, with no time limits. All you have to do is enter the highest number of individuals seen simultaneously for each type on the specific site. Isn’t that a great way of helping biodiversity?
If you would like to sign up for the Bumblebee Observatory (Observatoire des bourdons) or Operation Butterfly (Opération Papillons), go to the Participatory Science in the Garden (Sciences participatives au jardin) website.