The residue work continues, as our teams are in midst of collecting pollen and/or nectar from snapdragons and rhododendrons. Research teams in California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, and South Carolina are participating in this residue work, and our analytical lab has been busy processing the pollen and nectar samples for residue levels.

Flowers crowding beds in a greenhouse.
Salvia splendens flowers ready for nectar collection in July 2018.

Our research teams have realized that sampling nectar and pollen is an important but highly tedious and time-consuming task. To give an example, a typical, full-sized rhododendron plant may have about 1,000 flower blossoms. Collecting the pollen from that plant takes about 90 minutes. Collecting the nectar takes about 45 minutes. That’s 2 hours 15 minutes for one plant, but with 200 plants in our experiment, a research team can spend about 450 hours collecting nectar and pollen!

Aside from the time-consuming nature of the work, some teams have had to overcome additional obstacles. In New Jersey, for example, the initial group of rhododendron plants being used to test residues caught a case of phytophthora, a plant-damaging water mold that caused various portions of the plants to die off. They now have a new group of rhododendron plants—so far phytophthora-free—where they will soon be collecting baseline samples again.