Searching for Insect Pollinators

by Ana Maria Caballero, Nature Education Specialist
June 15, 2016

Trapping pollinating insects

Searching for Insect Pollinators

BTR teachers

BTR teachers prepare to collect insect pollinators.

Recently, a group of ten young educators from the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) program, along with their two instructors, visited the Arboretum to search for insect pollinators in the Leventritt Garden.  The previous Saturday, another group of Boston Public School teachers had attended a similar Insect Pollinator program through the Arboretum for Educators professional development series. These gatherings, led by the Children’s Education staff, with the help from researchers and volunteers, are intended to showcase the Arboretum’s diverse landscape as a way to introduce teachers how to use an outdoor space in their teaching.  Educators come together to learn, share ideas, and develop greater confidence with the natural environment, so as to be better able to guide student learning in outdoor settings.  In the case of BTR, teachers are encouraged to use the Arboretum as a resource for science instruction when they start their own teaching careers in the fall.

tuning fork

BPS teachers use a tuning fork to examine pollen.

Among the many pollinators captured were carpenter bees, bee mimics (insects that resemble bees), moths, beetles, flies, and several other unknown varieties of bees.  Callin Switzer, who led the group, was instrumental in sharing his knowledge and explaining some of his research on buzz pollination.  A highlight was using a tuning fork to coax pollen to come out of poricidal anthers.  The group also practiced the special wrist action necessary for successful net use to capture insects, and then how to put them into bug boxes for closer observation.  Callin shared his kill jar with the group, explaining the need to work with dead specimens for correct bee identification.  Along the way, teachers asked many questions.  A greater knowledge base helped to reduce fears of being around stinging insects, and teachers were able to delve more deeply into the exploration.

Once back at the Hunnewell lecture hall, educators enjoyed using dissecting scopes to further examine insect body structures.  BTR teachers, who are developing curriculum action plans, were encouraged to look through the resources presented, and include the Arnold Arboretum as a field trip destination into their action plans.  By working closely with educators the Children’s Education department hopes to expand its reach beyond field study programming, to engage more children with the natural world in their own school outdoor classrooms, and at the Arboretum.

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