update on pollinator efficiency project!

So this past week I was able to work on my project because the Echinacea has started flowering in the common garden! So far so good, but it is going slow…

The painting is going really well. I am able to distinguish one and two day old styles wonderfully based on how I am painting the brachts. However, the pollinators take their sweet time to visit my flowering Echinacea head when I want to do the single insect visit. I was under the silly impression that I would remove the pollinator exclusion bag and a bee would come flying to the flower, do its pollinating thing, and let me move on to the next plant. Wrong! Sometimes it takes a bee 30min to and hour to land on the flowering head, which means I am sitting there patiently watching a single Echinacea head for a long time. UffDa!

I do video tape the bees in case one lands that I cannot identify in the field. Plus, it’s nice to have video for my presentation later. BUT the video camera’s battery dies after a couple hours. So we may have to purchase a back up battery…

I have had 8 insect visits this week so far, and have noticed that they have all been after 10am. Maybe 10 – noon is the peek time for bees to collect pollen? Not sure yet.
The visits I have had are pretty exciting! I have had 3 Augochlorella visits, 2 Agopostemon visits, 1 Melissodes visit, 1 Lasioglossum visit, and 1 Ceratina visit. Quite a diversity!

The interesting thing is: when observing the shriveling or lack of the day after, Melissodes shriveled 1 style and only had a 3 second long visit! Both Augochlorella’s shriveled 1-2 styles each and they spent 5-7 min each on the Echinacea head! Looks like they are not very efficient pollinators, most likely do to thier small size and they barely touch the styles when collecting pollen from the anthers. Same with the Lasioglossum, which is around the same size as Augochlorella and it didn’t shrivel any styles. The Agopostemon spent a few minutes gathering pollen and shriveled 5 styles! I am curious to assess the shriveling of the other Agopostemon and the Ceratina (another small sized bee) tomorrow because those were the visits I had today.

A concern of mine is all the bags that are on the flowering heads in the common garden. Several people, including myself, are using pollinator exclusion bags. So maybe if the bees know that they wont be able to collect pollen as readily from the common garden, maybe they do not bother visiting as much as they would if the bags were not on the heads. Any thoughts?
The bags may also contribute to a lower pollinator efficiency if the bees are not able to transfer pollen as they would be if the bags were not on :/ …However, there will be more flowering plants as the season progresses and hopefully there will be a good number of them that do not have bags on them. So I am guessing I will see an increase in pollinator efficiency as the season progresses.

Also Gretel- would you be able to provide me with the peak flowering data from within the common garden when the time is right so that I can compare that to a peak in pollinator efficiency (if I see one)?

I believe thats all for now! I look forward to giving another update on pollinators next week! 🙂



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