Bee a Citizen Scientist
Calgary Pollinator Count
Faculty and student researchers at the University of Calgary in partnership with the Office of Sustainability are interested in gaining understanding of the species diversity and abundance of pollinators supported by different flowering plants.
In general, we know some plants support a greater diversity of pollinators, and some pollinators require specific plants - but not what the specifics are in Calgary or other urban environments. This knowledge will allow us to create Calgary guides and resources for city planners, backyard gardeners, and landscape designers to support our urban pollinators.
Who can get involved?
Anyone in the City of Calgary interested in observing pollinators!
What are pollinators?
- Pollinators can include any animals that interact with the flowers, and flower parts, of plants. This July hunt pilot project is focused on insect pollinators (for example, bees, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies).
- Pollinators require abundant and easily accessible food (in the form of flowering plants) all season.
- Pollinators are essential members of ecosystems. Our native flowering plants and many of our foods are dependent on pollinators.
- Native pollinators are in decline due to a variety of factors, and a better understanding of how to support them is important.
- We can support pollinators by planting the best plants throughout our urban environments - creating pollinator corridors in our backyards, balconies, community gardens, in parks, and along roadways, all makes a difference.
Keep your eyes peeled for biodiversity in your natural surroundings - particularly pollinators.
Participate in our Timed Pollinator Count to document your observations and/or take pictures of the plants and pollinators you see.
Upload your findings using our Online Datasheet and share observations on iNaturalist to advance pollinator citizen science in Calgary.
Join the Calgary Pollinator Count pilot!
For a detailed overview of how to participate in the Calgary Pollinator Count, please use the instructional resources below.
How to do a pollinator count
Ways to Participate in the Calgary Pollinator Count
We want to understand what pollinators are in the City of Calgary and the plants that they pollinate. Alberta, including the City of Calgary, is home to hundreds of different pollinators – over 330 species of bees, as well as flies, beetles, wasps, and other insects! However, we still do not know very much about which pollinators visit which flowers.
Last summer, we started a project to identify insect pollinators and what species of plants which pollinators visit, but we could not capture all of the insect pollinators and their plant associations - even with 90+ students and faculty! We therefore need your help to be able to create guides on how we can best support our native bees and other insect pollinators.
There are two ways to help with our 2021 Calgary Pollinator Count pilot:
1. Timed pollinator count
A timed pollinator count is a great way to see the pollinators visiting the flowers in your neighbourhood, garden, or yard. Sharing counts of pollinators also helps us better understand how many pollinators different types of flowering plants support.
The 5 or 10 minute pollinator count is a timed count of all the insects that visit one type of flower. It is based on the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme.
Here is how to do a timed pollinator count:
- Find a patch of flowers (all the flowers must be the same kind and you must know what kind they are)
- Place a quadrat (a 50 cm x 50 cm square) over the patch
- Take a photo and record basic information about your patch
- Watch your patch, when you see the first pollinator arrive, start a timer for 5 or 10 minutes
- Keep watching your patch and count all of the insects that visit the flowers in your quadrat until the timer stops
- Complete a datasheet and then upload and share your results.
Once you have finished your count, you can also upload photos of the pollinators you saw to our iNaturalist Calgary Pollinators project – see below for more information.
2. Photograph pollinators (and the plants they are on)
If you are out for a walk, in your backyard, or after a timed pollinator count, please take and share photographs of pollinators to our iNaturalist Calgary Pollinators project . iNaturalist is a community of people from all over the world uploading photos of living things and helping one another identify them. iNaturalist has a number of video tutorials for using the site, and a great Getting Started Guide. Our Photographing Pollinators Guide explains how to share your iNaturalist observations of pollinators with our project. Adding photos of pollinators to iNaturalist helps us learn more about the diversity of insect pollinators in our city.
We invite you to share this project and invite others to join you through social media by tagging @ucalgarysustain in your photos.
Current Bee Restoration Projects and Habitat Sites
Looking to branch out and venture beyond your neighbourhood? Check out these bee restoration and habitat sites across Calgary to conduct your pollinator counts.
References and additional resources
Bee Habitat Pilot Project
In spring 2022, UCalgary students are coming together with one common interest—understanding bee populations in Calgary's urban areas. As part of the Office of Sustainability’s Sustainability Leadership Innovation Program, students will place two types of artificial bee habitats for our native pollinators: bee hotels and bumble bee boxes (bee domiciles). These habitats will be used to better understand the biodiversity and abundance of urban bee populations. Alongside University of Calgary Architecture and Planning, these habitats will be used to collect meaningful data on native bees whilst engaging the public and sparking curiosity in pollinator health initiatives!
Interested in providing bees a habitat in a home garden?
- Include a variety of tube sizes, as different species prefer different diameters of tubes. Tubes should be at least 6 inches long with an opening that can be anywhere from ¼” to ½” in diameter.
- Bee hotels should face north-east and should only have one entrance (the back should be sealed). The direction is important to avoid direct sunlight and to limit wind exposure. Bees are picky about where they nest!
- Keep them clean. With the high density of habitats, there is a greater risk of pest infestation. Remove any tubes that have debris or are inhabited by non-bees at the end of the summer. Tubes inhabited by bees can be removed and placed in a fridge over the autumn and fall.
- Place bee boxes outdoors beginning in April. Different species of bumble bees emerge between April to June, so their home should be available to as many species as possible.
- The entrance of the box should face north. Bumble bees are heat sensitive and the direct sun can damage colonies.
- Leave them alone! If your box is successfully inhabited, it is best to avoid disturbing them too much.
- Take down/clean boxes in late September to early October. Once the colony is no longer productive, it is best to clean out the box to avoid pest infestations.