Observing pollinators!

Now it’s time to observe!

Each time you go out, you should try to do about 6 observation periods of 5 minutes each. We ask for three of these observation sets, done either on the same day or on different days. (However, if you can do more, that is extra helpful). If possible, observe different flowers for each observation period, and each day you are out. However, it is not necessary to mark the flowers you observed in order to avoid them later.

  • When you arrive at the site, record the basics on your Data sheet: the date, time, weather, and your location. Set your stopwatch so that it counts down from 5 minutes to 0 and then beeps, so you don’t have to keep checking the time.
  • For each observation period, you’ll choose the number of flowers that you’d like to observe – these are your “focal flowers”. You should pick a new set of focal flowers for each observation period (different individuals – it is okay if they are very close by). Choose flowers that are in the sun, at least to start. It’s a little tricky to choose the right number – you want to observe as many as you can, but if you observe too many, you’ll miss something! I recommend starting by observing about 10 flowers: if you find yourself missing something, reduce that number for the next observation period, but if you think you have it covered, you can increase it. It is really important that you choose focal flowers at the beginning of the observation period and then stick with them. It’s easy to be tempted to add focal flowers halfway through your observation period, if there is a lot of activity on them.
  • Find a place to sit near your focal flowers. Sit so that you are not casting a shadow on the plants.

When you’re ready, start your stopwatch!

  • Throughout the 5 minute observation period, record any pollinator that forages on your focal flowers. Watch closely as it’s foraging, and then record the data as it is leaving. You’ll  record the name of the pollinator group (either “bee” or “fly”, or the name of one of the 5 pollinator groups), the number of male-phase and female-phase focal flowers that it visits, as well as any other observations you have about the visits. Record the identity of the visitor to the best of your ability! If you’re not sure what it is, just record it as “unknown” or “?” and describe it the best you can in the “notes” section. Is it a bee or a fly? What other insect does it resemble? What color is it? What size? It’s much better to be confident on your IDs than to be specific.
  • When the 5 minute observation period ends, fill in any data that you didn’t have time to write down during the observation period.
  • Then, move on to the next 5 minute observation period! Pick another set of focal flowers in a sunny area, record how many you will observe, and start another observation period.