Field work is a wonderful chance to get outside and collect data. When researchers want to study the bees that visit plants, field work usually means being outside on a warm day, looking at flowers and counting bees. Could it be any easier?

It turns out that many things can get in the way of collecting data, and many of those things can be hard to control. In the two years that our researchers have been taking data on pollinator attractiveness, they have faced various interruptions to their projects due to erratic weather events and wildlife.

Brush pile on fire.
Groundhog eating white clover flower.
Overhead view of a hurricane coming onto land.

In 2017, for instance, our research site in Pennsylvania was graced with the presence of a groundhog. This groundhog had different ideas about how to handle our experimental plants, leaving the plants in a less-than-desirable state. In addition, the same site experienced flooding events, which made 2017 not a great year for collecting pollinator attractiveness data.

In 2018, our research site in northern California was impacted by smoke from the devastating fires nearby. This presented a unique challenge for us, in that the sunlight was so obscured by the smoke that we believe it impacted how the pollinators and plants interacted. Again, not great for our data collection purposes.

Our site in South Carolina dealt with different weather events and natural disasters. The summer of 2018 was one of the hottest on record, which really affected the vitality of our experimental plants. On top of that, South Carolina was hit with two intense hurricanes during the fieldwork season, which also left plants in a less than desirable state.

In sum, while our field work has been a great way to get outside and collect data, it has also involved some challenges. Thankfully, with multiple sites across the country replicating our study on pollinator attractiveness, even with some setbacks we can get enough data to see the major trends.