Brian contacted us recently with this question. He is planning a nature garden and wants to attract pollinating insects. That means attracting, not just the adults, but providing food for the larvae too.
The best advice is to to include a range of plants in your garden and to avoid using pesticides. This will attract a range of different insects to your garden. While many adult insects are generalists, feeding on a range of flowers, their larvae are often adapted to a specific species. An example is the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, Aglais urticae. While the adult butterflies feed on nectar from many different flowers, the caterpillars feed only on the common nettle. The problem is that many gardeners are happy to grow lots of pretty flowers but sometimes less keen to give space to ‘weeds’ like nettles.
Become an arctic pollination investigator without even putting your coat on! Scientists investing pollinating insects in the arctic need your help. By spotting pollinators in images taken by remote cameras, you can help teach a computer system how to identify these insects which are vital to arctic ecosystems.
Insects are important pollinators all over the world, including the arctic region around the North Pole. By moving pollen from flower to flower, insects enable new seeds and fruits to form. These seeds will grow to become the next generation of plants. Without pollinators, many species of plant would die out because there would be no young plants to replace the old ones.
The Department of Bioscience at Aarhus University in Denmark have set up time-lapse cameras at various arctic locations. For the past three years, these cameras have gathered thousands of pictures of flowers. It would take an enormously long time for humans to locate and identify pollinators in these pictures, so the researchers now want to train a computer to do it. A computer has already identified pictures that include flowers (although it may not always get tis right). The researchers need your help spotting any pollinators that may have visited the flowers in these pictures.
You can join the project by visiting the Pollinator Watch pages of the Zooniverse website. You can then click ‘Learn more’ to read more about the project and the researchers, or ‘Get started’ to start hunting for pollinators. There is a short tutorial to help you learn how to spot the insects, and then you can hunt through as many pictures as you like.
You don’t need to register with the site to take part but if you want to, make sure that an adult gives permission. Signing in means you can keep up to date with the project and you will get credited if you find something special!
Don’t forget to let us know how you get on by sending us a message on the Contact Us page.