The first project to be run under the Buzz Club banner, the ‘Pollinator Abundance Network’ (or P.A.N.) aimed to measure the presence and abundance of different groups of pollinators in gardens nationwide. PAN brought together a network of volunteers from across the UK to sample of their local pollinators using pan traps, over a period of 48 hours in the first few weeks of May, June, July and August. The collected insects were sent to Sussex University for species identification, to see which species and groups were the most abundant.
The project was run between 2014 and 2017, refining the technique and the experience of taking part - as well as collecting hundreds of samples. It is now closed and the data is being analysed, so watch this space for updates.
The pan traps were painted with fluorescent spray paint, before being sent to participants in project kits.
Samples were sent back in the provided jars, preserving in white vinegar.
Participants were encouraged to try identifying their samples, using the ID guide provided.
The ID guide is still available for download here.
P.A.N. project FAQ
What happens if my pan traps dry up?
Top them up. There is no need to make another solution – just water should do, as you will have detergent residue in the pan-traps already.
My pan-traps have caught other insects (e.g. butterflies, beetles). Do I include them in my sample?
Although the main focus of the project is on bees, wasps and hoverflies, we are interested to see everything the pan-traps have caught (hopefully you can fit them in your vinegar jar!).
Do I need to put them anywhere particular in my garden?
Although it would be helpful to try to control the environment in which the pan-traps are set, it is beyond the scope of this project. Please therefore select sites that are visible to pollinators and ones that are not likely to get disturbed by other factors.
Pan Trapping FAQ
Some smaller specimens got stuck in the muslin when I was trying to transfer them. Any tips?
Try dipping the mesh into the vinegar to free the tiny insects. Although we’d like everyone to handle the sample as little as possible, it is hard to transfer some individuals if they get caught. If you’re having a tough time, carefully using a toothpick to encourage the insect into the vinegar (whilst you’re dipping?) might work.
I am not getting what I feel to be an accurate reflection of the pollinators in my garden in the pan-traps. Is there anything I can do?
Some volunteers have commented that their pan traps do not seem to be catching a fair reflection of the pollinators they see in their garden. Please don’t be overly concerned! No survey method provides a completely unbiased sample. /font>
Should I keep the location of the pan-trap the same over all four trials?
Yes please, as much as you can!
What is pan trapping?
Pan-traps are brightly coloured bowls, full of soapy water. These superficially resemble flowers (because they are colourful), and attract foraging insects, which fall into the water. As different insects are attracted to different colours of flowers, three traps are typically used per location: One blue, one yellow (or pink), one white. This should attract a range of insects.
Traps are usually mounted on a post ~1m above the ground or on a garden table so they only catch flying insects, and not ground-based invertebrates that might walk in (this also helps reduce the number of slugs and other non-target creatures that might fall in).
In this way, the traps collect a sample of the insects that are flying during the period they are deployed, and the collected insects can be transferred into a preserving liquid so they can be kept long enough to identify.
Pan-trapping is a very useful and frequently-used tool for measuring species richness and abundance, and has been described as “most efficient, unbiased, and cost-effective method for sampling bee diversity” (Westphal et al. 2008), as it offers a technique that provides cheap, simple, repeatable measures of abundance of insect species (Lebuhn et al. 2012).
Does pan trapping kill insects?
Yes; pan trapping is a ‘destructive’ technique (as the sampled insects are removed from the population).
Does this affect the population being sampled?
No, pan trapping does not significantly affect the sampled population (Gezon et al., 2015). This approach is routinely used in scientific research and will not in itself have an impact on UK pollinator populations, as such small numbers of insects are involved (a single insecticide application to an arable field will kill many times more insects than this entire project, for example).
We consider the projected benefits to threatened species that we can achieve by understanding pollinator population trends will outweigh this small loss.