Things have settled down a bit and I've started work again on the great pollen challenge! I have ten locations for each of ~150 slides, and for each location I have been recording the count of pollen grains, as well as the number of species as best I can tell (I have also taken notes with descriptions of pollen in each location). My goals at this stage are to get better at recognizing pollen grains of the same species in multiple photos and to get a feel for the diversity and amount of pollen on the pollinators we caught. I'd also like to see if there's any pollen load size/diversity consistency within a pollinator species.
I have started looking at the male Melissodes sp. and so far it looks like about half of them carry no pollen at all, but some of them have multiple grains at each location.
My question for you is... What makes an insect a 'pollinator' in the context of this study? We are focusing on pollinators, and are not including insects that we caught but know are not effective pollinators (ex. syrphid flies), so there needs to be some way to distinguish between other effective and non-effective pollinators. I have thought about making a cutoff like, say, in order for an insect to be a 'pollinator' it must have one grain of pollen per location. That way insects that happen to be carrying one grain of pollen (total) but that aren't really pollinators wouldn't be counted as pollinators in this study. However, any cutoff seems very arbitrary. It almost seems better to include anything that we know carried pollen, even one grain.
But what about those male Melissodes sp.? If some individuals carry no pollen and others carry quite a bit, do they all count as pollinators, or just the ones that carried pollen?
If you have any ideas, please put them in the comments!