Effectiveness of camera traps for quantifying daytime and nighttime visitation by vertebrate pollinators

Siegfried L. Krauss, David G. Roberts, Ryan D. Phillips, Caroline Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Identification of pollen vectors is a fundamental objective of pollination biology. The foraging and social behavior of these pollinators has profound effects on plant mating, making quantification of their behavior critical for understanding the ecological and evolutionary consequences of different pollinators for the plants they visit. However, accurate quantification of visitation may be problematic, especially for shy animals and/or when the temporal and spatial scale of observation desired is large. Sophisticated heat- and movement-triggered motion-sensor cameras (“camera trapping”) provide new, underutilized tools to address these challenges. However, to date, there has been no rigorous evaluation of the sampling considerations needed for using camera trapping in pollination research. We measured the effectiveness of camera trapping for identifying vertebrate visitors and quantifying their visitation rates and foraging behavior on Banksia menziesii (Proteaceae). Multiple still cameras (Reconyx HC 500) and a video camera (Little Acorn LTL5210A) were deployed. From 2,753 recorded visits by vertebrates, we identified five species of nectarivorous honeyeater (Meliphagidae) and the honey possum (Tarsipedidae), with significant variation in the species composition of visitors among inflorescences. Species of floral visitor showed significant variation in their time of peak activity, duration of visits, and numbers of flowers probed per visit. Where multiple cameras were deployed on individual inflorescences, effectiveness of individual still cameras varied from 15% to 86% of all recorded visits. Methodological issues and solutions, and the future uses of camera traps in pollination biology, are discussed. Conclusions and wider implications: Motion-triggered cameras are promising tools for the quantification of vertebrate visitation and some aspects of behavior on flowers. However, researchers need to be mindful of the variation in effectiveness of individual camera traps in detecting animals. Pollinator studies using camera traps are in their infancy, and the full potential of this developing technology is yet to be realized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9304-9314
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


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