A UK-wide citizen science charity generating usable data on pollinators, pollination and much more!

Pollinator Abundance Network

Project leader: Dr Robert Fowler PhD.
Contact Rob by email at: R.E.Fowler@sussex.ac.uk

The first project to be run under the Buzz Club banner, the ‘Pollinator Abundance Network’ (or P.A.N.) uses pan traps to measure the presence and abundance of lots of different groups of pollinators nationwide.

There is widespread concern that bees and other pollinators are in decline, worldwide and within the UK, but efforts to conserve these vital invertebrates need to be targeted; we need to know which ones are declining most and fastest.  To add to this information, PAN has been designed to bring together a network of volunteers from across the UK to take samples of their local pollinators, using pan-trapping over a period of 48 hours in the first few weeks of May, June, July and August.

The collected insects will then be sent to Sussex University for species identification, and allowing us to measure how abundant the different groups and species are.  The project was first run in 2014, with 50+ participants taking part in the initial trial.  The technique and the experience was well-received by our volunteers, and we found some interesting insects in the returned samples – so we are keen to run it again, at a larger scale, in 2017 and beyond!

To sign up P.A.N. 2017 »

Please note – although member fees go towards materials and the initial postage of project packs to members, we ask that participants are able to cover the postage back to the university at the end of the project (postage is expected to cost ~£2.80).

© The Buzz Club Pascuorum © The Buzz Club Pollinator Abundance Network

© The Buzz Club Honeybee

PAN Project Instructions

Full instructions are provided in the project kits, and extra copies of all documents can be downloaded from this page if you lose them or want additional ones.The P.A.N. project aims to sample the pollinators present in gardens across the UK, to get a better idea of what is living there. The experiment involves setting out pan traps in your garden for 48 hours, once a month in the summer (May, June, July and August), putting the samples in jars provided, and posting them back to us at the end of the project. We provide pans, jars, white vinegar (for preserving your samples) and instructions – you will just need to do the collecting, and post it all back at the end so we can ID everything here. We also send some identification guides and links to more comprehensive ones online, so you can have a go as well.

Full instructions are provided in the project kits, and extra copies of all documents can be downloaded from this page if you lose them or want additional ones.

Alternatively please download full instructions, below:

© The Buzz Club Pan Trapping

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, 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.  In the case of the PAN project traps, we use a white vinegar that will be supplied along with the traps.

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).

However, it should be noted that it is a ‘destructive’ technique (as the sampled insects are removed from the population). 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.

© The Buzz Club faq


Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if my pan-traps dry up?

  • Do 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.

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!