Author Options:

Stop critters from eating sunflowers - Citizen Science Contest Answered

The SciStarter Citizen Science Contest is live! This is your opportunity to help millions of citizen scientists contribute to real scientific discovery. Make their experiences better by coming up with solutions to some real annoyances that hinder their participation. To get you started, here is a specific--and very real--challenge sent to us by project organizers.


Background: The Great Sunflower Project uses data collected by citizen scientists to create an online map of bee populations. Participants grow sunflowers, observe how many bees visit those flowers, and then submit their observations.

The Problem: Critters, like mice and birds, often eat the sunflower seedlings before the bees are able to visit. As a result, some volunteers are unable to collect and submit data.

The Challenge: Create a safe, simple way to ensure the sunflowers are protected from critters and reach maturation.

Enter now! Contest closes January 21, 2013


wouldn't some kind of bird netting be the simplest thing to do? Grow the seedlings in the ground but under some kind of simple set up with some poles (bamboo/wood/plastic) and a large piece of bird netting over the top and down to the ground. Still lets the light in, but would keep rodents and birds out. Bird netting is very cheap.

I know this post is really old, but I wanted to reply. I'm actually on the same quest. Squirrels would chew right through any kind of netting.

Do it like the farmers have done for millennia, Felis silvestris catus ...

I don't think that the bee-data will be valid if you interfere with the environment. I.e. some of the bee population data will be based upon environments where other wild-animals are artificially-discriminated.


Yes, we'd like to make sure that it doesn't interfere with bee visitation. Most of the herbivory happens before flowering though

I see it like this:
If it's just bee-behavior it's probably OK, but you could plant other flowers (less tasty to critters).
If it's a local environmental-study; don't mess with the environment because it will give false data.
I don't know which the project really fits, as it seems to be a bit of both.



5 years ago

What about tying Mylar strips to stakes near the seedlings? I know that helps keep birds away, apparently because of the fluttering noise and the random flashes of reflected light; does anyone know if squirrels are deterred?

Interesting. We'd have to test whether it keeps bees away. Then again, we could just remove the mylar strips once the plants start flowering.

I was thinking maybe a high pitch sound frequency generator would keep away birds and squirrels when they go near it and it would only activate when animals come near it.

Interesting, how would you set up the activiation?

sorry for my lack of knowledge lol I'm not the best when it comes to wording things correctly.

Maybe just sow the seeds indoors or in a greenhouse/hotbox and then transplant them when they're 4-6 inches tall. I don't know much about this. How big do the seedlings need to be before the animals don't eat them?

I think they are pretty safe once they reach six inches. Sunflowers don't transplant that well though. They are much stronger if grown from seed in the ground.

Interesting. Is there a way to insure that the pesticide won't make the sunflowers unattractive to bees? The other big problem is that the seedlings get munched as soon as they germinate. I've been thinking a mechanical solution may be more appropriate.

The idea is to keep the seeds and/or sprouts unappetizing for rodents. By the time the plant is mature enough it will not be necessary to spray the pesticide. Precipitation, like rain, will dissolve the pesticide, thus allowing bees to pollinate the flowers.


5 years ago

Hi I'm Gretchen from the Great Sunflower Project. We have people all over North America planting sunflowers and when the plants flower, they count the number of bees that visit which allows us to compare pollinators across all sorts of back yards. However, there are a lot of problems between the seed going in the ground and the plant flowering. Sunflower seeds and seedlings are wildly popular with many garden critters. While we support providing plants that provide resources for lots of critters, we'd like those flowers to get to flowering! What we need is something that can defend a nice tasty sunflower from birds and squirrels.

Exactly! Maybe some sort of a bird or squirell repellent.....

What type of thing would repel a squirrel?

Some of the things that I've seen people use to safeguard their seeds are upside down strawberry baskets and sawed off large soda bottles. The latter one creates a mini-greenhouse also.