SDSU Extension has launched Backyard Biodiversity in South Dakota for 2014.

"The Backyard Biodiversity project is designed to engage South Dakotans in monitoring pollinators and other beneficial insects in their immediate environment," said Amanda Bachmann, SDSU Extension consumer horticulture field specialist.

Bachmann added that the Backyard Biodiversity project gives individuals a way to actively help honey bees and other native pollinators. "This project is a way for anyone interested in pollinators and pollinator conservation to be involved in learning more about these important insects," she said.

Remember, you don't need to be a professional entomologist to participate in Backyard Biodiversity project. In 2013, 19 South Dakotans submitted observations, bee bowl catches or both. Bachmann said this effort resulted in the observation of 550 pollinator visits to flowers and more than 400 insects captured in bee bowls.

How to participate?

The monitoring protocol for this project is simple; watch the flowering plants in your backyard for 20 minutes at a time once every two weeksor weekly, if you're so inclined. The observations should start as close to June 1 as possible and end Sept 30.

In addition to the visual observations, which volunteers record on a data sheet, you can also set out bee bowl traps, which Bachmann provides to participants, once a month in June, July and August.

"Bee bowls are a passive trapping method that provides a more detailed look at what insects are showing up at a site," she said. "The insects that are caught in the bee bowls will be pinned, identified and added to research and teaching collections."

Volunteer training

Three training webinars for Backyard Biodiversity are scheduled for March 17, April 15 and May 12. The March 17 webinar will introduce the project and cover the observation protocol; the April 15 webinar will cover bee identification and the May 12 webinar will go over yard and garden pest management with bees in mind.

All three webinars will begin at 4 p.m. (CST). The sessions will be recorded. The participation links are posted on iGrow Events and you can find the first webinar link at http://igrow.org/events/backyard-biodiversity-2014-welcome-webinar/. If you are a Master Gardener, participating in this project counts towards your volunteer hours.

To learn more visit http://igrow.org/gardens/gardening/backyard-biodiversity-in-south-dakota-kicks-off-for-2014/ and e-mail or call Bachmann to be added to her project contact list to receive the latest updates.