Pollinator Citizen Science Project
This project started as a collaboration between research and extension personnel at Texas A&M University, Tarleton State University, Texas Tech University, and Oklahoma State University. We were frequently asked by master gardeners, landscapers, and homeowners what plants they should put in their garden to attract pollinators. Unfortunately, there is a lack of data-driven resources to help decide what plants to put in the garden. The purpose of this project is to use citizen scientists to determine the attractiveness of different commercially available ornamentals (annuals or perennials) to different groups of pollinators in the Southern USA, namely Texas and Oklahoma.
Data from 2019 has be combined and is still being analyzed – once done, we plan on publishing some fact sheets that will summarize some of the findings from this project. For an undigested report, click the button below:
2020 Pollinator CS Project
Thank you to all those that contributed! Visit back later or subscribe to our mailing list below for updates on the results. For the most recent summary on the 2020 data, click below:
2021 Pollinator CS Project
Due to popular demand and success of the project in previous years, we plan on carrying the project into 2021. The training and qualifying quiz will be made available here on March 22, 2021. We will have some minor modifications and improvements based on input from last year. Looking forward to receiving your contributions again this year!
- Dr. Mike Merchant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
- Mr. Erfan Vafaie, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
- Dr. Eric Rebek, Oklahoma State University
- Dr. Adam Mitchell, Tarleton State University
- Dr. Scott Longing, Texas Tech University
- Dr. Vikram Baliga, Texas Tech University
Below are some of the most commonly questions asked, either through email or during the training webinar, related to contributing to this project.
Annuals and perennials are included in the study.
We currently do not have the resource to manually enter data. If you have a county agent or master gardener lead has agreed to enter the data into the form on your behalf, you can use this physical form DOWNLOAD. Please make sure you still complete the quiz, that your email (the observer, not the person entering the data online) is associated with the online form entry, and that the date/time are entered correctly in the online form.
2′ x2′ is recommended because it is manageable. Please stick to this patch size so the data are standardized across all observers.
Unfortunately, we are not supporting adding multiple plants within a specific observation, because we are trying to determine which specific plants are attracting the pollinators. Each 2′ x 2′ area should be for a single plant species, so that we can determine how attractive that specific plant species is to pollinators.
Although we do not have a set required commitment from our citizen scientists, the data set would greatly benefit if every citizen scientist contributed at least weekly to the database. Additionally, it would help if you looked at the same plants every week (until no longer in bloom); so make a selection of plants when you start and make an effort to revisit them at least weekly, if not more often than that!
We are trying to only collect data from commercially available flowers. Please limit your data to those. The main objective of the study is to build a list of flowering plants that folks can purchase and plant in their landscapes that are beneficial to pollinators.
If we don’t have a 2’ x 2’ area of a particular plant, but have a total of 4 sq. ft. of that type of plant spread out amongst other species of plants, is it ok to count pollinators that are seen on the individual but separated plants within the 60-second period?
That’s a bit tricky; although we haven’t decided on an ‘official’ policy on including plants that are not right next to each other, our initial thoughts are that it’s ok, as long as you can count the number of pollinators within a 2’ x 2’ area within those 60-seconds. So if you have two 1×1 areas that are separated by just a couple of feet, you may be able to observe both of those plants together within those 60-seconds, and that would be ok. However, if a pollinator visits one of the 1 ‘ x 1’ plots and flies over to the next 1’ x 1’ plot that are being observed together, do not count that pollinator twice!
Yes, you can observe more than one patch each day.
In some cases, I see rather large numbers of beetles (50 – 100) that may not be considered effective pollinators. Should we still count those?
The main purpose of our study is to evaluate pollinators. We ask you to continue counting beetles as well, unless the numbers are so high that they will detract from counting the bees and lepidoptera. We ask citizen scientists to estimate the number of beetles when numbers are high (40 or more) and focus on counting the other categories.
My spouse would also like to participate. Do they need to listen to the training and/or complete the quiz separately or can we do it together?
Both can attend/watch the training webinar together, but will need to complete the pollinator quiz separately with your own respective emails. Details on the quiz will be available during the webinar, through email shortly after the webinar, and on our project website.
We have pre-filled the latin name options based on last year’s entries. If your plant is not in there, please select “Other”, and in the coming weeks, your plant will be added to the latin names. We’ll keep you posted on when we update the form to include more latin names, so that you won’t have to full type them out every time!
When we are making observations on a plant that goes out of bloom (naturally) long before the project ends, should we stop sending counts for that plant?
Yes. If a plant is not in bloom, there’s no point in making observations on it. We want to determine the attractiveness of a plant based on when it has flowers present.
Will the app allow you to enter zeros as entries if nothing is observed? And do you want that data also?
Yes, as long as you’re being consistent with your observation times. Zeroes are important data, too, because it tells us which plants may not be very good for attracting pollinators.
Would it be better for us to do counts at the same time of day? Or only during particular weather conditions?
We are making the assumption that citizen scientists aren’t going to be making observations in the pouring rain! The survey asks what time of day you are making your observation and the outdoor temperature; so we can take those into account in our analyses. For that reason, it’s ok if you make observations at the same time or slightly different times for any given day.
Yes, bumble bees carry pollen on their “pollen baskets” (corbicula) located on their hind legs while also drinking nectar.
The design of bee hotels is up to the creativity of the designer. These are as much art projects as they are beneficial to pollinators and other beneficial insects.
Africanized honey bees are more aggressive, in general, than non-Africanized honey bees. In my experience, they are most dangerous when you get near their hives. Individual bees foraging on flowers, Africanized or not, shouldn’t pose a hazard as you are making observations, just approach with caution no matter what.
Only genetic testing can determine the difference between Africanized and non-Africanized honey bees. They’re not visually distinguishable.
There are many beetles that visit flowers to feed on nectar and pollen (e.g., lady beetles, soldier beetles, tumbling flower beetles, etc.). Some species are more effective pollinators than others, but that is beyond the scope of these observations. Please record any beetle you find visiting your flower patch.
Noticed that [the] eyes of Africanized honey bees looked like fly eyes. Is this an exception to fly/bee identification?
If you observed a “bee” that has fly eyes, it is probably a fly. See the recorded discussion or Identification Guide 2020 to learn about “look-alikes.”
Only record wasps and other insects that visit the flowers in your patch. In most cases, predatory wasps are at flowers to feed on nectar, not other insects.
Wasps are recorded as “Wasp.”
Yes! Click here to download a PDF of the pollinator training presentation.