Pollinators are a vital part of a balanced ecosystem and critical to the well-being of humans. There are over 100,000 different varieties of insects and over 1,000 other species that serve as pollinators. These species are essential for the reproduction of over 225,000 different flowering plant species, including over 150 food crops. The annual value of pollinators to U.S. agriculture is estimated between $4.1 and $6.7 billion dollars. Increasing evidence shows that the health and population of many pollinator species is in decline, which threatens biodiversity, food availability, and human health.  More than 50 species of pollinators are listed as threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the lack of knowledge and data on pollinator species makes it difficult to understand the entirety of the pollinator decline. In 2017, volunteers across the state of Georgia began working on a project called the Georgia Pollinator Census. Today, the program encompasses Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina!

This year’s Great Georgia Pollinator Census will take place on August 18-19th, 2023.  The census was originally held with a goal of creating a snapshot of pollinator population data while educating the public about the importance of pollinators and other beneficial insects. An additional benefit has been the use of the census as a tool for schools to provide STEM based programming to youth. Since 2019, 23,056 individuals have participated in the census and counted 464,184 insects in gardens across the state! In addition to this, over 352 schools in Georgia have had classes participate in the census.  This information is being used in efforts to promote pollinator gardens, with an estimated 2,167 new gardens being created as a result of the census.

The census is open to all ages of citizens from Georgia and the Carolinas. The way it works is that participants choose a pollinator plant in their garden and proceed to count and identify the insects that land on the plant for 15 minutes. On August 18th, the GGAPC.org website will allow participants to input the type and number of insects they observed. If the idea of insect identification makes you nervous, don’t worry! The Great Southeast Pollinator Census website (gsepc.org) has resources to teach you about the types of insects you’ll observe. These include: bumble bees, carpenter bees, honey bees, small bees, wasps, flies, butterflies/moths, and other. The Insect Counting and Identification Guide provides in-depth descriptions and photos of each of these insects to help you identify them correctly and contains an observation record for you to use while you count. 

To date, the only county in our area who has participated in the census is Wilkes- so if you’re in Lincoln County, McCormick, or anywhere else nearby, we hope you’ll consider joining us for the Southeastern Pollinator Census! If you need help accessing these resources (found at ggapc.org) or have questions about the census or pollinators in general, please contact us at 706-359-3233 or uge3181@uga.edu.