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Allegheny County's Bees Love Nectar-Rich Native Milkweed

A bumblebee on whorled milkweed.

A citizen science project is collecting data about Allegheny County's native pollinators.

Project Bee Watch's seven volunteers are on the hook to spend 15 minutes a week at the Audobon Greenway in Sewickley. They survey the park's native bees, and pass that data on to Matthew Opdyke, a professor of environmental studies at Point Park University.

"We found that the most frequently visited wildflowers tend to be butterfly weed and milkweed, which are rich in nectar," Opdyke said. "The most abundant bees tend to be honeybees and bumblebees."

Other common pollinators are monarch butterflies and great spangled fritallary butterflies. 

Credit Courtesy of Matthew Opdyke
A great spangled fritillary butterfly at the Audobon Greenway in Sewickley.

Project Bee Watch is a collaboration of Point Park University and the Allegheny Land Trust. The collected data will be available to the public, so people concerned about their native pollinators can plant the flora that attract them.

"Homeowners can use that information to help plant the best wildflowers," Opdyke said.

This is Project Bee Watch's first year, and Opdyke said he'd like to see surveys done in other Allegheny County parks as the project expands. The seven current volunteers are expected to conclude this year's monitoring of pollinators at the end of the summer and pick back up in the spring. 

(Photo Credit: Joshua Mayer/Flickr)