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Insect Investigations: Summertime Citizen Science

Some of the greatest wonders of summertime are seeing fireflies light up the night, hearing the buzz of a bumbling bumblebee or counting the spots on a ladybug's back. Today we're going to take a look at three citizen science projects focused on insects. These are a great way to bask in the wonder of nature and contribute to scientific discovery. 

Firefly Watch
The Boston Museum of Science has teamed up with researchers from Fitchburg State College and Tufts University to study fireflies. Scientists are interested in where fireflies live and whether or not artificial light sources or pesticides have an affect on these insects. There are a lot of locations and insects out there and these scientists can't do this on their own. You can join Firefly Watch to help. Like any citizen science project, your observations are important pieces of data.

You can participate easily in Firefly Watch by signing up to be a volunteer and then choosing a site to study. Perhaps it is your backyard or maybe a nearby park. Do you see fireflies at the campsite you frequent? When you make observations of your site you can then share this information online. Peruse the online map to see where firefly "hotspots" are near you!

Looking for some other fun firefly activities? Check these out from the National Wildlife Federation.

Lost Ladybug Project
The Lost Ladybug Project is a joint effort of Cornell University, 4-H and funded by the National Science Foundation. The purpose of the project is to learn how the species composition of the ladybug is changing. Several, once common, types of ladybugs are now very rare. On the other hand, non-native species of ladybug's populations are booming. This insect is very important in terms of keeping the populations of other plant-eating insects, like aphids, in check. Scientists need your help to determine where populations of different types of ladybugs are.

To participate in the Lost Ladybug Project all you have to do is photograph ladybugs when you see them and upload them using the website's submission form. There is a lot of info on their website on how to appropriately find, photograph and identify these insects.

Bumblebee Watch
Bumblebee Watch is similar to the other projects outlined in this post. The mission is to track and conserve North America's bumblebees. Bumblebees are important plant pollinators. They help assure we have productive gardens and crops. Understanding more about their populations is very helpful in conservation efforts. This project originated with the Xerces Society and now has many partners.

To participate in Bumblebee Watch you must sign up for an account. Then you can upload photos and observations you've made about bumblebees or bee nests. You can also explore the data on the website, see photos from other sightings and investigate bumblebee distribution maps.

There are many ways to get involved in science and nature over the summer, often through the same exploration you, or your children, might be doing anyway! Do you have a favorite citizen science project? Please comment below!


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