Springtime pollinators

The spring Wild Pollinator Count is on again from 12-19 November 2017. All you need to do is watch a flower for 10 minutes on any warm, sunny day during that week and submit your observations via our website. You can find the simple instructions here. And don’t forget you can use our official social media hashtag #ozpollinators to share interesting pollinator sightings and information about Australia’s wild pollinators all year round.

The pattern of seasons this year has been unpredictable, to say the least. It was the hottest winter on record for Australia, so you may have seen some pollinators out and about during the winter months, even in cooler temperate regions. Bees are lot less tolerant of cold than flies, so it’s always interesting to note if you see any native bees flying on winter days. Continue reading

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.

 

Searching for wild pollinators in winter

My partner and I do an Albury to south east Queensland road trip every year to visit my family. This year we holidayed during winter, which made the trip even more enjoyable. We left home just before a particularly cold Antarctic blast blew through town. But I wasn’t just looking forward to escaping the weather and catching up with friends. It had been a while since I’d seen any wild pollinators around Albury, so I was keen to spot some on our travels north. Continue reading

April 2016 Count Results

Thank you to everyone who participated in the April 2016 Wild Pollinator Count! Just over 200 observations were submitted from 86 locations, all the way from Buckleboo in South Australia to Cairns in North Queensland.

April 2016 map

Participants counted almost 2000 insects during flower observations. Some people included insects that flew past the flower without landing, but we haven’t included those numbers here. We also haven’t included ants, as these are often more likely robbing nectar rather than pollinating. European honey bees were the most abundant pollinator insects, followed by our native bees, butterflies and moths. And don’t forget the flies and wasps! Continue reading

Final weekend for autumn 2016 count

The autumn Wild Pollinator Count continues until Sunday 17th April, so there’s still time to join in or have another go!

Thanks to those who have already completed a count (or a few!) and submitted your results. You still have time to count until Sunday evening, and you have until next weekend to submit your observations via our website.

Image of butterfly, moth, native bee and fly

More than just bees … some pollinator insect images submitted during the count by Laurie M, Erica Siegel, Vivien Naimo and Karen Retra.

Some contributors to this season’s count have noted that there are fewer flowers in bloom and less pollinator insects than are usually seen in spring and summer. This is to be expected in autumn, as many insects decrease in numbers and some disappear altogether as the weather cools. Why don’t pollinators like cooler weather? Click here to read our blog post on this.

We’re enjoying some wonderful photos that are also being shared as part of the count. You can view some of them here and we’ll continue to add to them as they come in. Remember that you don’t have to take photos to participate in the count, but we’d love to see them if you do.

Have a great weekend and happy counting!

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

There’s still time to do a count!

Thanks to everyone who has joined in the November 2015 count so far. We’ve crossed the continent since our last count – our first observations from Western Australia were submitted this time!

There are still a couple of days left to do a count (until Sunday November 22), and you are welcome to submit another observation even if you have already submitted one.

With the hot weather much of the country has been experiencing over the last couple of days, there’s more of a chance of seeing pollinators earlier in the morning and later in the evening. This suits us just fine, as it means we don’t have to be out in the hottest part of the day!

We’ve had a busy week here in Albury, with some great public events on thanks to the Slopes2 Summit partnership. We were delighted to meet native bee enthusiast Dr Michael Batley, who gave a public talk at the Albury Botanic Gardens on Wednesday night, sharing the wonderful antics of some of our native bees. On Thursday, he joined us at the Wirraminna Environmental Education Centre at Burrumbuttock, where we hosted some eager school groups. Wirraminna is a beautiful location, and it was the perfect spot to get the kids outside in nature, looking for insects on the diverse array of native flowers that were on show.

The highlight of the week has been the discovery that we have 3 different species of blue-banded bee in the Albury region, not just 1, as previous records show – you can read Karen’s blog about the excitement here. More inspiration to get out there looking for the little things we often miss!

It’s been particularly rewarding to see how fascinated people are to discover that bees aren’t our only native pollinators! The #ozpollinators hashtag has certainly been getting a workout on social media, and we’d love to see your pictures too. You can also share pictures & ID tips with the hashtag in between counts.

And don’t forget our photo competition – you have until November 27 to get your entries in, and we even have a prize for the best ‘near miss’ shot! You can find the entry form and conditions here.

 

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Autumn 2015 Count

We’ve successfully proved that the Wild Pollinator Count is not a one hit wonder! Thank you to everyone who took part in the second count. The number of observations we collected was 59, almost double the number from the first count last spring. And our geographical range expanded dramatically too, with observations submitted from 25 locations in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Continue reading