This Insect Survey was something I stumbled upon thanks to the BTO’s enewsletter. Apart from the fact I’m always up for ten minutes just standing and watching some flowers, it’s good to be useful in gathering real scientific data that can be used in conservation policy. This is a UK project, but there are others.
This post was unable to load last Tuesday because of a server fault. I shifted it to Monday instead.
Flower-Insect Timed Count (FIT Count)
The Flower-insect Timed Count is a ten-minute survey designed to collect new data on numbers of flower-visiting insects. It’s part of the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme, supported by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. There are parallel projects in Cyprus, Ireland, and South America–all using the same app the FIT Count uses.
The aim is to gather evidence about a range of pollinator species, especially their abundance and distribution. You don’t have to be an expert on insects, just tell a bumblebee from a honeybee, or a wasp, or a fly or a hoverfly or ‘something else’.
A Sunday spent on Insect Survey ‘work’
As I read more about this, I discovered there were several requirements in order to take part.
- one of dozens of preferred plants, in flower
- a decent enough day for insects to be flying about
- time to spend ten minutes watching them
- the ability to make a 15cm by 15 cm square frame to mark out the area you would count insects in (see pictures)
- ability to update your identification skills by reading through the insect guide.
- … and if you upload the FIT Count app, you don’t even need to have a pencil and paper at hand.
One Insect Survey after another
Well, with all the flowers listed that they would like information on, I had plenty of choice… without even getting up from the table where I’d made the frame, I could see the bees on the lavender. So I started there.
The app was fun. After logging in, it got you started by asking you to take a photo of the frame on your chosen flowers, count the number of open flowers within it, and whether there were other flowering plants nearby or in the frame. Then … click ‘go’ and the timer starts.
Well, sitting in the sun watching the bumblebees and a honeybee come and go was fun, but since there were only three bumblebees and one honeybee in the ten minutes, I decided to take a walk down to the bottom of the garden. Even from the top of the slope I could see the insects flying in and out of the roses and bramble flowers in the hedge.
I was obviously too enthusiastic with my pruning last year, because all the flowers on the brambles are at the top – I’m never going to be able to make bramble jam this year. But I hoicked the frame up onto the hedge so I could see bees visiting the flowers, and repeated the exercise.
This was much more fun although standing for ten minutes on slightly squidgy ground (we’ve had a lot of rain since last week) was not as easy as sitting on the patio. More fun, though.
Here there were loads of bumblebees, solitary bees, honeybees, a beetle of sorts, and a fly or two. I saw nineteen insects altogether. And I learnt how to tell solitary bees from bumblebees – the easiest way is to look at their antennae. Bumblebees usually have bent or angled antenna, solitary bees’ are usually straight!
So next time we have a nice day, I’m going to have another ten minutes counting insects!
This is the last of my #30DaysWild posts for the year, delayed from last week. You can see my summary of the month here.