Do you have common ivy in your garden?

Have you seen a patch of mature common ivy (Hedera helix) flowering near you? Do you have a couple of minutes each week to film what insects are visiting the ivy flowers?

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A native potter wasp on ivy flowers.

A new international collaborative research project is looking at what insects visit ivy flowers in its native (UK) and introduced range. Ivy flowers in autumn, so it is an important pollen source for many pollinator insects as the winter months approach. In its introduced range where the plant has become invasive, information on its pollinators could help develop effective control methods.

The citizen science project is led by Fergus Chadwick (Trinity College, Dublin) and Professor Jeff Ollerton (University of Northampton). Dr Manu Saunders and Amy-Marie Gilpin (both University of New England) will be managing the Australian arm of the project.

The project needs citizen scientists to contribute weekly videos of insects visiting their local ivy patch!

Citizen Science Project Monitoring the Pollinators of Ivy

You can use any technology you like, even a smartphone. You just have to film at the same spot once a week during the flowering season and upload your video via the project’s Facebook page with some information about the location. Please make sure to read all the details in manual linked to below before getting started – it’s important that everyone’s contributions are filmed in the same way so we can compare data. We prefer videos to be uploaded on the Facebook page; however, if you are not a FB user and still want to contribute, you can email us your video and data to ivypollinatorsaustralia@gmail.com.

Ivy has already started flowering in some parts of Australia, so you may have missed the first few weeks! But please join in anyway – the project will continue again next year and you will have the opportunity to contribute to the full season then.

Note: Ivy is an introduced species and can be invasive in many parts of Australia. Therefore, we are not promoting planting of new ivy plants. This project is based on observations of established ivy plants.

If you are not sure whether you have found Hedera helix, visit this page for some photos and ID tips.

If you would like to get involved, please visit the project’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/PollinatorsofIvyMonitoringProjectAustralia/. You can find details on the project and how you can get involved in this document. Or you can email the project team at ivypollinatorsaustralia@gmail.com.

And don’t forget the National Wild Pollinator Count is on again soon, at its usual time. You can join in by counting pollinators on any flowering plants (not just ivy!) between 9-16 April.

 

Wild Pollinator Count Starts!

Wild Pollinator Count starts this weekend, on Sunday November 13. You can do a pollinator count in your backyard or local park any time until next Sunday November 20. All you need is a spare 10 minutes to watch a flower!

All the instructions you need to do the count are here. And you can find some answers to some of our frequently asked questions here. You can submit your observations via the online form here. Also check out our helpful resources and links on these pages.

The submission form will remain open until November 27, but only observations conducted during the count week (13-20 November) can be accepted.

Happy Counting!

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The next Wild Pollinator Count is on soon. What’s it all about?

Spring has well and truly arrived! Have you seen any of the new season’s wild pollinators in your local patch yet?

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We’re only two months away from the next National Pollinator Count – it runs from 13-20 November 2016. If you’ve missed the first few and are wondering what this event is all about, here’s a brief recap:

What’s it all about? The national Wild Pollinator Count started in November 2014. We started the count to raise awareness about Australia’s thousands of wild insect pollinators…not just our gorgeous native bees, but all the flies, butterflies, wasps, moths, and beetles that are so often overlooked. (There are plenty of birds, mammals and reptiles that also pollinate, but we just focus on insects). Many of these insects aren’t just full-time pollinators – they are also important to ecosystems in other ways, for example by providing natural pest control services. The count runs biannually, in the second full week of April (autumn) & November (spring), every year. We hope that participants will join in regularly, as this will give them the opportunity to keep track of seasonal patterns of wild pollinators and flowers in their local area.

Is this a citizen science project? There are many different definitions of a citizen science project. We think any project that encourages non-scientists to engage with scientific methods on a regular basis is a citizen science project. Our count protocol is based on standard scientific methods that pollination ecologists around the world use to collect data on pollinator insects. Having a standard counting method, which can be conducted at multiple locations within a set period of time, enhances the quality of our data. Continue reading

Thank you for counting!

The autumn 2016 count is now over. Thanks to all who contributed observations!

The submission form will remain open until Sunday April 24 for you to submit your observations. From a quick glance through the observations we’ve received so far, residents from at least 5 states have participated. We’re looking forward to finding out what wild pollinators they’ve seen!

The next spring count will be on between 13-20 November 2016. In the meantime, you can still share any wild pollinator sightings and resources on social media using the #ozpollinators hashtag. We also have a Bowerbird project and a Flickr album you can view all year round.

Happy wild pollinator spotting!

Get set – the autumn Wild Pollinator Count starts this Sunday

Wild Pollinator Count flyer image, April 2016The next round of the Wild Pollinator Count is nearly here. Help us to build a picture of the pollinator insects that are active in your area at this time of year by doing your own count between Sunday April 10th and Sunday April 17th.

While you don’t need any fancy equipment or special skills to participate in the Wild Pollinator Count, you might like to plan ahead so you’re all set to go.

All it takes is to spend 10 minutes watching a flowering plant of your choice, take note of the potential insect pollinators you see and let us know by reporting your results on our website. We’ve got resources to help you, including how to count instructions, a printable tally sheet, pollinator insect identification tips, guide to common pollinator insects, frequently asked questions and more.

With the seasonal differences compared to November (our other count period), you can expect to find different flowers in bloom and perhaps different species or numbers of pollinator insects.

Where will you count?

The project is designed to allow participants to count as close to home as possible. So your garden or a flowering plant in the neighbourhood are great places to start. If you have a favourite bushland or park, you might like to count there. Across Australia the range of plants flowering in the count week will vary, so pick a spot where you can find flowers to watch. If a plant you watched in November is flowering, you might like to count again on it to see if the pollinator insects visiting are similar or different.

Remember, we’re keen to know which plant you observed for the count, and whether it’s a native or exotic. If you aren’t sure of the plant name, you might try to find out or you could share a photo with your count. If you would like to observe a number of plants, please try to do each plant as a separate count. This way, we see which plants and pollinators are associated, rather than a more general picture of the pollinators across a garden or landscape.

When will you count?

Image of counting with clipboard and coffee in a garden

Thea O’Loughlin tweeted the “cuppa and count” approach last November. Thanks @TerraThea

Many pollinator insects are only active when it’s warm (over 15° C), so we recommend trying to count on a sunny day. If the weather is cooler or overcast for your count, you might see mainly flies, European honey bees or European wasps. They tend to be more cold-tolerant than native bees, wasps or other flying insects. If the forecast isn’t great in your area on days you have time to spare, you might like to try to do a count in a lunch or tea break to take advantage of better conditions. If you’d like you can also note the weather in your observation notes (but you don’t have to).

Tell your friends and keep in touch

Don’t forget you can keep up with all the news from the count by subscribing to our email news, following our website or via the #OzPollinators hashtag on social media (we tweet but the hashtag works for public posts on facebook and instagram too!). During the count you can upload photos to our flickr group or post to our project on Bowerbird.org.au.

Join the fun by adding your comments or photos during the count, or even as you plan for the week … the more the merrier!

A pollination predicament: Bumblebees and their presence in Tasmania

In February 1992, in a garden in the waterfront suburb of Hobart, Battery Point, a couple of bumblebees turned up. They were Bombus terrestris, the large earth bumblebee, and their presence was a surprise, given that no native bumblebees exist in Tasmania or mainland Australia. At first only two bees were seen, but by the following year they were popping up all around Hobart. It is highly likely that one or a few bumblebee queens had made it to Tasmania by boat from New Zealand, where they persist in successful, long-term, feral populations. The Battery Point bees could have arrived as either accidental stowaways, or as a deliberate and illegal introduction by an unknown offender? Now, exactly 24 years later, bumblebees have successfully established across every region of Tasmania, and are found in both urban environments and a wide range of native vegetation types.

Early this month an Australian Senate Committee was established to assess “The risks and opportunities associated with the use of the bumblebee population in Tasmania for commercial pollination purposes”. The committee lists seven focus points related to the potential use of bumblebees in commercial crop pollination, which they plan to investigate further.

The large earth bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, is now common across Tasmania. Here it visits an introduced thistle.

The large earth bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, is now common across Tasmania. In this photo a worker bee visits an introduced thistle. Large earth bumblebees were introduced to Tasmania from New Zealand in 1992. They are not native to New Zealand either, however, having been introduced there from England over 100 years ago for the pollination of red clover. While Australia has an estimated 2000 native bee species, we have no native bumblebees (Bombus spp.). Photo: Loy Xingwen

Bumblebees and crop pollination

For some time, glasshouse farmers (in particular tomato and capsicum growers, both in Tasmania and on the Australian mainland) have been calling for the legalised use of introduced bumblebees in the pollination of their crops. Evidence from overseas shows that bumblebees are very effective pollinators of crops such as tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, chillies, and blueberries. The reason for this is that these plant species benefit from a type of pollination known as ‘buzz pollination’. The pollen from buzz pollinated plants is presented in their flowers differently to the way it is in most other types of flowering plants. In ‘typical’ flowers, the pollen is presented on the outside of the male part of the flower, the anther. In plants that are buzz pollinated, however, the anther is tubular in structure, and the pollen is presented inside this. To get the pollen out of this tube most effectively the flower is vibrated, to shake the pollen out of the end of the tube. Continue reading

April Count announced!

We are pleased to announce the dates for the autumn National Wild Pollinator Count, April 10-17 2016.

To help keen pollinator counters plan ahead, we have also decided to lock in the second full week of April & November for future count weeks, which will run from Sunday-Sunday. We will still remind you of exact dates prior to each count.

Remember, the count can be conducted anywhere, at any time during that week. Details on how to count can be found here.

If you haven’t already, make sure to sign up for our e-news updates to keep up with WPC news and blog posts. And you can share photos and resources with us year-round via the #ozpollinators hashtag on Twitter or the WPC project page in Bowerbird.