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Plants for Bugs

RHS research project monitoring insects in native and non-native garden border plants.

Nectar sampling on the plots

Posted by Helen Bostock Plantsforbugs on 21 Jun 2012 at 08:39 AM

This year, in collaboration with researchers at Newcastle University, we'll be monitoring nectar on the plots; research that will help determine whether there's any difference in the quantity (volume) and/ or quality (sugar and amino acid concentrations) of nectar between the flowers of native and non-native plant species.

Sampling nectar requires a selection of very narrow (microcapillary) glass tubes and a fair amount of patience!


Microcapillary tubes of different sizes

For each flowering plant on each plot, three recently opened flowers are removed and placed in zip-lock freezer bags. Back in the lab,  a microcapillary tube is inserted into the flower (specifically, the nectary) effectively mimicking the action of pollinating insects.  Any available nectar is drawn up through the tube by capillary action.  We use a microscope and calibrated eyepiece to accurately measure the length, and therefore volume, of nectar in the tube. 

Microcapillary tubes containing nectar


Flowers and nectar samples are then placed in a freezer and will be sent to Newcastle University where they will be analysed for their glucose, sucrose, fructose and amino acid content.

Results from this work will help us provide advice on which plants provide the best floral reward for pollinating insects!


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