Beewatchers sought for North Park project

Thursday, April 11, 2019 | 1:30 AM


Point Park University professor Matthew Opdyke launched Project Bee Watch last summer, and now the citizen science project aimed at determining the health of pollinators in Western Pennsylvania is coming to North Park.

Volunteers interested in participating should come to a training session on Saturday, April 27 at Latadomi Nature Center to learn how they can help. It’s a relatively easy process that involves observing a small patch of land in one of three designated meadows in the park for 15 minutes at a time from May through October. Volunteers set their own schedules, and whether they want to go once a month or three times a week is entirely up to them, said Ken Knapp, an assistant naturalist at Latadomi.

Knapp participated last year when they monitored bees and other pollinators at the Audubon Greenway Conservation Area in Sewickley.

“The plight of the bees has been well-publicized and is a concern to me, so that got me interested in the beginning,” Knapp said. “But going into the field and doing the work is kind of neat. When you think about it, most of us hike through a field but when you force yourself to sit down and spend 15 minutes watching a little piece of land it’s a whole different perspective. Over the course of a season you get an appreciation for what comes to what plants and that kind of thing. You sort of become part of the environment and so you see things you don’t see when you’re just walking through.”

The project came about last year through a social impact grant from the university, Opdyke said. Although the declining health of the bee population has received a great deal of national attention in recent years, no research has been done in this area prior to last year to determine what’s happening to the population here.

Last year they had about 20 people record 30 hours of observation, Opdyke said, and he then analyzed the data and passed it on to members of the Allegheny Land Trust to aid in their mission of planting wildflowers and other plants to attract local pollinators.

“There are certain specialists, such as sweat bees and others that will choose only particular plants, so we can help the Allegheny Land Trust determine what types of wildflowers they want to plant,” he said.

The training covers how to identity common bees, plants, wildflowers and others that might be attracted to the pollen, such as butterflies. Volunteers will watch a small patch of land, record what plants are there, what the conditions are like and what visited the area.

“What’s nice is we’re starting to generate data on what’s here right now and we can use that 10 years in the future to determine if it’s changed and if anything is happening to these pollinators,” Opdyke said. “That’s the ultimate goal is to look at how it changes over time.”

Individuals can take part but it would also make a good project for groups including scouts, churches and others, Knapp said. As long as the sun is out and it’s not raining, volunteers can put in their time.

“It’s an important project because the plight of bees and pollinators is a very significant subject, but it’s also a neat way to get an intro into citizen science,” Knapp said. “It’s easy to participate and it’s enjoyable to be a part of.”

An additional training will be held May 19 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Frick Environmental Center in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park for those who want to participate but can’t make the North Park session.