a peek inside the fishbowl

02 Aug, 2016

I love me some citizen science!

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Ottawa for kids|Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa

Bee on a thistle

I really like bees. I don’t know where it comes from, but I think bees are pretty cool and deserve a little bit of love. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at beekeeping but, sadly, that’s not going to happen here in Westboro. We CAN, however, do the next best thing:

1) Plant bee-friendly flowers our flowerbeds.

2) Avoid using insecticides in the garden.

3) Put a source of water out in the yard for bees and butterflies: a shallow dish of water with a layer of pretty rocks or half-submerged marbles will do the trick!

4) Get out the camera and contribute to Bumble Bee Watch. (!)


What is Bumble Bee Watch? Good question. This is from their website: Bumble Bee Watch is a collaborative effort to track and conserve North America’s bumble bees. This citizen science project allows for individuals to:

  • Upload photos of bumble bees to start a virtual bumble bee collection;
  • Identify the bumble bees in your photos and have your identifications verified by experts;
  • Help researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees;
  • Help locate rare or endangered populations of bumble bees;
  • Learn about bumble bees, their ecology, and ongoing conservation efforts; and
  • Connect with other citizen scientists.

I snapped a few photos the other day, opened an account on the website and uploaded them to the website. It was a very easy process. What I didn’t expect (but makes total sense) is that users are asked to take a closer look at their bumblebees and try to match them to illustrations on the website as they’re uploading. As it turned out, I’m pretty sure we had a Brown-belted bumble bee in the front garden – Bombus griseocollis. It’s common, but still, pretty exciting to contribute to a project of this scale!

The photos are verified by experts later, but it’s still neat to contribute in this way. And who knows! You may have a rare species in your own backyard!

Tip: The best photos are taken straight on so you can see the colouration of the head and body. (Don’t worry about being stung. Bumblebees will mostly ignore you.) I took a lot of photos and then realized there were only a couple that were clear enough. Next time I’m bringing my zoom lens too. :)


1 Response to "I love me some citizen science!"

1 | Kim

August 11th, 2016 at 9:08 pm


Oh wow! Thanks for sharing about the Bumble Bee Watch. My daughter is really interested in the bees and we just planted more bee-friendly perennials in our garden this spring. She will love the project of photographing bees! Love stumbling across this!

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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