Frequently Asked Questions

We have put together answers to a few questions you might have about the FIT Counts or 1 km survey – please contact us if your question is not answered here!

How often should I carry out FIT Counts?

There is no fixed rule about this, and even a one-off FIT Count will help provide useful data for our overall analysis. However, if you can do repeat counts over time at the same location this is especially useful. This could be once a month, once a week or even once a day – it’s entirely up to you! You don’t need to use the same target flower every time (and it’s fine to move the exact position of your count from one group of flowers to another).

How can I see the latest results from the FIT Counts?

Anyone can see a summary of all the FIT Counts by going to the FIT Counts map.

You can view your own count results in more detail (and edit them if needed) at any time. Log in to this website, go to the "View results" part of the menu, and choose "My results". You can also download your own count results into a spreadsheet using the link at the bottom of the "My results" page.

If you have not yet registered on this website you can register here. If you are using the FIT Count app make sure you register using the same email address for both the app and the website, so that all your counts can be linked up and displayed on this website.

Can I record the species I see?

For the FIT Count we only ask for insects to be identified to species group, and we are more concerned with the numbers of insects than with the species. But for any species that you are able to identify, either during the count or at any other time, the records will be welcomed by the recording schemes for the various groups, see Taking things further. Species records can be added to iRecord or sent direct to the recording schemes.

Why is pan trapping necessary?

Trapping is frequently used to monitor insect populations. This is partly because it can provide consistent, statistically valid results with less of the bias that is inevitably introduced by human observers; and partly because for many insects accurate identification to species level can only be achieved if specimens are examined under the microscope.

PoMS is using pan traps for our 1 km square surveys. Pan traps are small plastic bowls painted white, yellow and blue, filled with water and a little unscented detergent to reduce surface tension. Insects are attracted to the bowls in the same way as they are attracted to flowers and get trapped in the water.

The PoMS pan trapping protocol has been carefully designed to minimise the number of insects caught, while still sampling enough individuals to measure changes over time. Typically we only catch 3-4 bees and hoverflies per set of three pans during a 6-hour pan trapping survey, though these numbers vary depending on various factors including location and time of year. There are studies showing that overall insect populations are not damaged by trapping at the scale and frequency of surveys like PoMS. The data provides robust evidence for change in insect abundance that can be used to inform conservation and environmental policy.

BBC Radio 4 recently produced an insightful programme in which several eminent entomologists talk about why it’s sometimes necessary to kill their subjects for the sake of science.

What happens to the insect samples?

Insects from the PoMS 1 km square samples are stored in small tubes of alcohol and returned to the UKCEH laboratories for subsequent analysis and curation. This includes a full count of each insect sampled in the pan traps, broken down by species group. All bees and hoverflies from the samples are further examined and identified to species level.

The full set of samples from each year is archived and has been used for further research involving DNA analysis.

Can I add another 1 km square to PoMS?

For now the PoMS surveys are being undertaken across a fixed set of 95 random stratified 1 km squares across the UK, designed to be able to detect changes in insect numbers over a 5-10 year period. We do not anticipate adding to this number in the immediate future. The methodology we are using is available and could be applied in additional locations. If you are planning to do this we would be keen to hear from you. Although additional squares cannot be counted within the main set of PoMS data, they would form an interesting extra comparison.

Unfortunately PoMS is not able to provide survey equipment for, nor to process specimens from, any independent trapping surveys.

Asian Hornets and pollinator monitoring

To date no Asian Hornets have been found during PoMS surveys, but the number of Asian Hornets being found in the UK is increasing and it may be that PoMS participants will encounter them one day. It is important that we are vigilant in looking out for this species, and we want to ensure that any potential sightings of Asian Hornet are reported.

If you do see a suspected Asian Hornet during a PoMS survey or FIT Count please report it as quickly as possible via the links below. If it is possible to approach the hornet safely please try to obtain a photo for any reported sighting. 

If you think you have found an Asian Hornet nest please also report that immediately. Do not disturb suspected nests and retreat from any wasp / hornet nests if flying insects are observed (you may be able to use binoculars to identify nests from a safe distance).