Matrix projection modeling is a mainstay of population ecology. Ecologists working in natural area management and conservation, as well as in theoretical and academic realms such as the study of life history evolution, develop and use these models routinely. Matrix projection models (MPMs) have advanced dramatically in complexity over the years, originating from age-based and stage-based matrix models parameterized directly from the data, to complex matrices developed from statistical models of vital rates such as integral projection models (IPMs) and age-by-stage models. We consider IPMs to be a class of function-based MPM, while age-by-stage MPMs may be raw or function-based, but are typically the latter due to a better ability to handle smaller dataset. The rapid development of these methods can leave many feeling bewildered if they need to use these methods but lack sufficient understanding of scientific programming and of the background theory to analyze them properly.
Females are attracted to the hollow material in trap nests.
When thinking of bees and wasps, most people have social insects living in colonies in mind. But most species are actually solitary. In these species, every female builds her own nest and does not care for the offspring once nest construction is completed. Most of those species nest in the ground. Several thousand species of bees and wasps use pre-existing above-ground cavities though (such as hollow twigs and stems, cracks under bark, or empty galleries of wood-boring insects).
To keep you in suspense, I’ll resolve the importance of studying cavity-nesting species later in this blog post. First, I’ll introduce you to one of the more elegant research methods in ecology: trap nests. To study and collect these cavity-nesting species, you can take advantage of their nesting preferences. By exposing artificial cavities and offering access to an otherwise restricted nesting resource, you can attract females searching for suitable nesting sites.
Building these trap nests is simple, but the design can vary greatly. Many designs and materials can be used to build the artificial nesting sites, such as drilling holes in wooden blocks or packing hollow plant material (e.g. reeds) in plastic tubes. Once females find the trap nest and finish their nest construction, the developing offspring are literally ‘trapped’ in their nests. They can then be collected, their trophic interactions (e.g. food and natural enemies) observed, and the specimens can be reared for identification. Continue reading →