From birds to bees: applying video observation techniques to invertebrate pollinators


  • C J Lortie YorkU
  • Amber Budden UCSB
  • Anya Reid YorkU



Observation is a critical element of behavioural ecology and ethology.  Here, we propose a similar set of techniques to enhance the study of the diversity patterns of invertebrate pollinators and associated plant species.  In a body of avian research, cameras are set up on nests in blinds to examine chick and parent interactions. This avoids observer bias, minimizes interference, and provides numerous other benefits including timestamps, the capacity to record frequency and duration of activities, and provides a permanent archive of activity for later analyses.  Hence, we propose that small video cameras in blinds can also be used to continuously monitor pollinator activity on plants thereby capitalizing on those same benefits.  This method was proofed in 2010 in the alpine in BC, Canada on target focal plant species and on open mixed assemblages of plant species.  Apple ipod nanos successfully recorded activity for an entire day at a time totalling 450 hours and provided sufficient resolution and field of view to both identify pollinators to recognizable taxonomic units and monitor movement and visitation rates at a scale of view of approximately 50 cm2.  This method is not a replacement for pan traps or sweep nets but an opportunity to enhance these datasets with more detailed, finer-resolution data.  Importantly, the test of this specific method also indicates that far more hours of observation - using any method - are likely required than most current ecological studies published to accurately estimate pollinator diversity.


Author Biographies

C J Lortie, YorkU

Biology, Assoc Professor 

Amber Budden, UCSB


Anya Reid, YorkU




How to Cite

Lortie, C. J., Budden, A., & Reid, A. (2012). From birds to bees: applying video observation techniques to invertebrate pollinators. Journal of Pollination Ecology, 6.



Notes on Methodology