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Buzz-worthy venture
Local woman counts bees for project

LOGANVILLE - Master gardener Dale Sikes has a cheat sheet with pictures of bees.

Carpenter bees splay their wings when they land, and are often totally black. Bumble bees have large, stocky bodies and fold their wings neatly on their backs. Honey bees are about an inch long, with subtle stripes.

Being able to tell the difference is important because this summer, Sikes will be counting the number of bees that alight on sunflowers in her garden.

The information will go to the Great Sunflower Project, a group trying to track bees and help scientists discover why the pollinators are disappearing and what effect that is having on the country.

"It's really about bees, honey bees. They're dying by the billions," Sikes said. "Every third bite we take is because bees are pollinating."

Sikes planted prairie sunflowers in her garden and in six weeks, once they bloom, she'll watch the plants for 30 minutes at a time, tracking how often the bees show up. According to the group's Web site, more than 30,000 people have signed up to count the bees nationwide.

In the past, Sikes said, she remembered seeing bees all the time around her plants and flowers. This year, she doesn't recall having seen any.

"If the honey bees die out, then the food dies out and we die," she said. "It's just such a major thing."

For more information or to participate in the project, see www.greatsunflower.org.