Thanks to Mark Hall (@linearecology) for collating the data and writing up the post for this count.
Once more, the Wild Pollinator count was a big success thanks to all the participants who shared their observations with us. For the autumn 2018 count, we received a new autumn record of 329 submissions from 117 localities including every state and territory in Australia. It’s great to see the growing number of participants each year since the project started and what this means for the knowledge and enthusiasm for our important and diverse pollinators.
Over 2500 insects were counted (which is again an increase from previous years – around 200 more than the last autumn count). As usual, we excluded ants from the data table, as it’s very difficult to know from observations whether ants are acting as nectar thieves rather than effective pollinators.
Honey bees were the most-counted visitors this time, with 1272 occurrences, followed by all other bees. It is always interesting to see some of the patterns of change occurring. Insect pollinators by their very nature show seasonal and yearly fluctuations in numbers. This autumn count saw the number of native bees, butterflies and moths double from the 2017 Autumn count, whilst hoverflies and European wasps were much lower than last year’s Autumn count.
|Wild pollinator||Number counted|
|European honey bee||1272|
|Blue-banded bee (native)||166|
|Butterflies and moths||237|
This year’s Autumn count saw the relative proportions of native and honey bees closer than in previous counts. On this count, 42% of the bees were native (greater than last autumn’s count and more in line with previous spring counts), while the remaining 58% were honey bees. Perhaps the generally higher temperatures experienced in many places this year has increased the activity period for some of these pollinators. This may have also increased the blooming period of flowers increasing the availability of food (nectar and pollen) for the native pollinators.
Bumble bees were again recorded in Tasmania – this year we had three counted. This European bee species was introduced to the island, and until today it has not established on the mainland. Bumble bees can easily be confused with our native carpenter bees (pictured below), that are common throughout Eastern and northern Australia. This year, we also had an African Carder bee recorded (pictured below). This species was first recorded in Brisbane in 2000, and has made its way down the east coast to Melbourne over recent years. It is important to monitor the presence of exotic species to better understand their potential effects on native fauna and flora. So, photos uploaded during the count are always useful for identifying such species.
(click on the images below for more details)
Almost 70% of observations this count were from exotic flowering plants! The most commonly observed native plants were grevilleas and flowering eucalypt trees, as well as flowering shrubs like Westringia and Scaevola. The most frequently watched exotic plants were common garden herbs, salvia, basil, rosemary, and lavender.
Thank you again for all the valuable annotations on weather conditions, behaviour of pollinators, and pictures, which complemented the basic data on pollinators and the plants they visited. Another fantastic thing to see was again people submitting zero values in the count. This type of data is very valuable for us, because it helps us understand the selection criteria of insects, and allows us to make inferences on insect flower preferences.
Many thanks to everyone who participated in the 2018 autumn edition of the Wild Pollinator Count. Some of the fantastic pictures that were submitted can be seen in this gallery, so click on the link and have a look at all the astonishing diversity of winged friends and their plant allies! Stay tuned for updates, and don’t forget to check our hashtag #ozpollinators on Twitter throughout the year.
And finally, this is a national count and there will be fluctuations across the country in terms of weather patterns, what is flowering and how these affect pollinator activity. So for those who didn’t have great counting conditions this Autumn, we look forward to finding out which pollinators are about during this spring’s Wild Pollinator Count which will take place between November 11 and 18.