The field season has long come and gone, yet I've unfortunately been negligent about posting updates here! With an eye towards making writing a regular habit in 2018, here is a post that I wrote for my lab's blog; it summarizes the tentative findings we've discovered thus far. Currently, I am sorting through my frozen insect samples and pinning bees. I'll post updates as I go, as well as retrospective highlights of the 2017 field season!
With one season in the books, we have some purely anecdotal impressions of which wildflower species are the most attractive to bees. Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) and Douglas aster (Symphyotrichum subspicatum) were both highly attractive to a wide diversity of native bees, as well as to a variety of beetles, bugs, and syrphid flies. As an added bonus, both these species had long bloom durations, providing habitat and colorful displays for significant portions of the summer. Annual flowers Clarkia amoena and Gilia capitata attracted a range of native bees.
Clarkia was also visited by leafcutter bees for a different purpose – cutting circular petal slices to build nest cells with. Results from this year need to be analyzed, and further research is needed to account for seasonal variability and to gather more data on floral visitors. Additionally, we will ask the public to rate the attractiveness of each of our study flower species in an effort to determine the best candidates for garden use. After a few more field seasons (and sorting lots of frozen insect samples!), the result of this study will be a pollinator planting list for home gardeners, as well as a pollinator and natural enemy friendly plant list for agricultural areas. These will help inform deliberate plantings that increase the habitat value of planted areas.