New herbarium expedition: Pollinator Plants of Virginia, U.S.A.
Welcome to a new Notes from Nature Project and a series of upcoming Expeditions: Pollinator Plants of Virginia. Pollinator populations and their overall health have declined in recent decades. While much current research is necessarily focused on the health of non-native, domesticated honey-bees and agricultural productivity, thousands of other invertebrate pollinators such as bumble-bees, small solitary bees, butterflies and moths are in need of help, too. In order for researchers to find these small creatures in the wild to monitor their population sizes or to test them for diseases, they must first locate the food plants that are preferred by each pollinator and wait for their research subjects to appear. Many native pollinator species will consume the pollen or nectar of very few plant species; this very choosy feeding behavior is called oligolecty. It also means that these species can die out if their food plants disappear. In this project, we have assembled herbarium specimens from over 100 plant genera that are identified by The Xerces Society as the most important pollinator host-plants in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. By transcribing these herbarium records, you help us develop very fine scale maps of the plants’ locations and flowering times, which can be used by pollinator researchers to find their quarry.