This project is OPEN for 2021
Night-flying insects like moths, beetles, flies (even mosquitoes) provide pollination to flowers that stay open at night. The strong perfumes of plants like honeysuckle and jasmine specifically evolved to draw in moths in the darkness. Recent work has suggested that nocturnal insect pollination might be more important than we thought (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180918110914.htm), but in general we don't know a huge amount about how much pollination is provided by nocturnal insects, or what effects our own changes to the nighttime landscape (with streetlights or garden lamps) might have.
The Buzz Club are going to investigate!
Last year we tried out a few approaches, and are planning to iterate on those this year. There will still be two parts to the project, but we've tweaked what they do:
1) Night-time counts
2) Garden light effects on pollination
Year(s): 2020 -
Status? In development /
Project lead contact:
1) Night-time counts
Most of us are - understandably - not as familiar with the nocturnal visitors to our gardens as we are with the daytime cohort. Thus we want our members to get to know the night-time insects that live in, or visit, their gardens. You don’t need to invest in special equipment or have a big garden to take part (the minimum is a window).
The protocol is to head outside when it has gone dark where you live, with a torch, and see what you can see. There are several easy places to look, depending on what spaces you have access to (see right)
Make a note of what you see, either using a notebook or a printed recording sheet. Since it will be dark and the insects might be moving quickly, we’ve included quite general categories (e.g. ‘large moth’ or ‘midge-like fly). If you can be more specific – or even better, take photos – then that’s great, but don’t worry if you can’t!
The aim is to do a Polli-Nightors count once a week during spring and summer (May – September). Do as many weeks as you can, but don't worry if you can't do all of them.
Places to look
On a window. You don't even need a garden for this one! Leave a curtain open and a light on, and see what lands on the window, attracted by the light.
By an outside light. Insects will be attracted to and around outside lamps (e.g. security lights), so you can stand nearby and observe visitors.
On a garden walk. Take a torch and walk slowly around the garden, passing the light over plants to either side of you, and see what insects you can spot.
On a focal plant. Pick a plant that should be attractive to night insects. Pale flowers and strong scent are often found in plants that have night pollinations (e.g. jasmine or honeysuckle); but anything with open flowers at night can be used. Using a torch, observe that plant and see what insects you find visiting the flowers.
How Light Is Your Night? - NEW for 2021
New for the 2021 run of these observations is a short questionnaire (included in the instructions), which asks about how much artifical light your garden recieves. We split this into types of lights you can control (like your own security lamps), lights you can't control (like street lights), and other decorative light sources (like solar lights); plus whether these are on all night or just for part of it. We also ask how well lit you find your space at night. The idea is to see if there are patterns in the types of insects you see at night, compared to what sort of light sources they are exposed to in that space.
We do also ask that if possible you download a light meter app on a smartphone and take a reading at the same time as you do your Polli-Nightors counts. If you can't, or aren't comfortable using third-party apps, this is optional.
Frequently Asked Questions - Polli-Nightors Counts:
1. Can I look in more than one place?
You can do a Polli-Nightors count in as many locations as you like (e.g. on a window and on a focal plant), but please print a separate recording sheet for each. If both places are lit differently (e.g. a front and back garden), please fill in the ‘How Light Is Your Night’ questionnaire for both places. This will make the data handling at our end much easier!
2. I wasn't able to start in May / only just found this project / missed a week. Is this a probem?
Nope! While we would ideally like as many records over the full time period as possible, we recognise that this might be a big ask. Do what you can, and just make sure to fill in the dates on your recording sheet.
3. I'm not very experienced in insect identification, and it's even more difficult in the dark. Can I still take part?
Yes! We recognise that identifying fast-moving insects is tricky enough in daylight, so the project focuses on insects that have landed on flowers / are spotted on plants. Please take photographs if you can - particularly if you are uncertain what you are looking at. The Buzz Team have a lot of exprience of identifying insects, so let us do the tricky bit if you're needing help.
4. I want to do more detailed identification than these broad categories.
You are very welcome to do so! Since Polli-Nightors is intended to get an idea of abundances, and get members familiar with their visitors, so we are not requring that participants do detailed species ID - but go for it if you want to, and we'll help out with any identifying any photos you take.
This is because there is excellent UK-wide work being done by specialist recorders that cover night-flying insects – particularly Butterfly Conservation’s “Moth Count”, and we don’t want to double up effort. If you want to expand your nocturnal entomology endevours, BBC Springwatch have a good blog post on moth trapping for beginners.
2) Nocturnal plant pollination