Bellflower Fun

Ashley Padilla

A rising Senior, Biology Major at the College of Wooster originally from Chicago, IL.

Research Direction

For my Senior Independent Study, I am interested in quantifying pollinator efficiency of three main types of pollinators (BombusHalictid, and Megachile). I will be doing this using three methods measuring seed set, pollen deposition, and pollen removal. An efficient pollinator is one that removes a significant amount of pollen from a male phase flower, deposits a large amount of pollen into a female phase flower, and causes a high number of seeds to set. My research aims at finding which out of the three pollinator types is the most efficient at pollinating Campanula Americana (American Bellflower). By testing this, I hope to create a reference point for other studies focusing on increasing effectiveness and restoring current populations.


Field Day 2: Sunday Funday 7/9

After taking an early weekend, the Bellflower team (minus Sara, who was working hard in the lab!) set out Sunday morning to set up our arrays. We were in the greenhouse shortly after 7am, and we all worked quickly to grab the plants we needed for the long day ahead. It was a long drive (for Dr. Ison) to our site at the Cascade Valley Metro Park, but we were rewarded with a beautiful American Bellflower population and some good data!

Jack and I displayed some excellent coordination and teamwork as we recorded and videotaped bees visiting our “mixed” pollen color array. Our array consisted of six white pollen flowers and six purple pollen flowers. Display sizes were cut down to two  male phase flowers and two female phase flowers. Meanwhile, Ashley worked diligently to collect her seed set, pollen removal, and pollen deposition data.

A tasteful array 🌻

While we hustled over to Akron, the bees were taking it easy and got a late start to the morning. Around noon, the bees got busy and we were able to collect a lot of data. Our mixed pollen array received 38 visits, a majority of which were megachile. We got a handful of visits from Halictid and Bombus, as well as a single visit from a wandering honeybee.

A halictid foraging in our array. Thanks for stopping by.

We wrapped our day up by spending some time in the greenhouse sorting and tagging plants for our next outing. All in all, we had a good day out in the field and hope to get some more data this week!

No Pollinators Allowed!

In the life of an everyday plant, interaction with the surrounding ecological environment is a full-time job. And though there are some that believe plants are static beings, they would be sorely mistaken as the life of any plant is usually a busy one.

(Image taken from Google)

Plants must handle hundreds of interactions on a day to day basis, without blinking an eye; the good, the bad, and the ugly (imagine how they would do academically… WOW). I think C. americana would be a valedictorian, just saying.

C. americana has been resilient in her interactions with us, the bellflower team, this summer. I do hope at least that they think of us as “good people”, because they have had to deal with a lot. When they were tied to stakes (“my back feels better”), when they were placed in the back of a car (“where are we going?/”this change of scenery is quite nice”), when they were placed inside of cages (“are you trying to suppress who I am?!/ Is this cage to keep me from going outside… or is it to keep something from getting in?”).

The cages were of course, to keep pollinators out, while at the same time allowing C. americana to continue their usual interactions in the environment. The plants were given the means to be pollinator-interaction free, for eight hours. One group of flowers in the sunlight, and one in the shade. Every 15 minutes temperature and humidity were measured; while at every hour interval, UV and light was measured. At the end of the eight hour period, the flowers were allowed their freedom (“thank you!) and pollen was taken from each set of flowers, and placed into petri dishes with B-K solution to germinate. We hope to determine the affect of UV on the pollen of C. americana, but for that, of course, there are no pollinators allowed.

Pollinator Array Day 1

Today was the first day we brought out the plants to a natural population in Cascade Valley! While Jack and Dr. Ison went to look through the trail for more populations, I stayed behind with the plants and other supplies in an area with just one Campanula and low and behold, a Bombus landed on one of our flowers.

We hiked a little further down the trail to a good sized natural population with a huge amount of Megachile. There, Jack practiced setting up his array and I practiced getting a single pollinator visit and collecting the styles after a visit. Jack learned that it would be easier to label all the plants with a single letter or number to be able to better keep track of where the pollinator is going and to be able to just call it out. I learned that I could probably use 200 microliters of water in the microtubes instead of 1000 so that the pollen can be more concentrated and also that videotaping won’t be necessary for my study. We also made sure to catch a Megachile to add to our reference library.

12 Plant Array

After we came back from Akron, we made adjustments to our field plan and got a supply list ready for the next time we went out as well as made data sheets. Sunday will be our first data collection day out in the field!



Poking Holes in the Exoskeleton

Last Friday, the Bellflower posse anted up to the table… to pin some collected insects.  We had spent the last week or so collecting a various array of the natural pollinators from the area (bee catching photos not shown for the sake of our embarrassment). After bee collection dust had settled we had to give the bees the old Han Solo treatment, so that we wouldn’t be attempting to pin live bees which was fair to me. But as the morning of pinning approached, just as we sat down with Kayla Perry from the Ohio Agricultural Research and Design Center, we were told to watch ourselves because it was still possible they wake up! All I could think was that a bee sting had to be nothing compared to a zombie bee sting…

After Kayla showed us the basics and some of her previous, very high caliber, work we were ready try it ourselves.

It is an interesting feeling poking a hole in a bee, kinda like you are a giant poking a giant push pin through a football players helmet.


This experience reminded me of being super young again when everything seems unbelievable and gross and awesome. The whole group loved our time pinning with Dr. Perry and would like to thank her very much.

The bees that we are collecting and using are Halictids, Megachile and Bombus bees. The collection will become part of a reference collection for Dr. Ison’s current and future work on pollinators.

Sweat or Halictidae

Bombus (Pushed down to foam to dry correctly)

Elizabeth Tuan

I am a senior biology major at the College of Wooster.

Research Direction

For my Senior Independent research, I will be looking at the maintenance of pollen color polymorphism in the American Bellflower (Campanula americana). In particular, I will be focusing on pollen color preference and floral constancy displayed by three types of pollinators (Halictid, Megachile, and Bombus). My research will determine if pollen color preference and constancy is present in bees, and whether preference and constancy are dependent on morph frequency. These aims will be achieved using three different arrays with varying ratios of white to purple pollen. By assessing pollen color preference and constancy in local bee populations, I hope to discover if assortative mating between bellflower individuals with similar pollen color plays a role in the maintenance of different pollen color morphs.

The Building of Cages… for Bees

When tasked with the job of building a cage, there are a few things that first come to mind. Cube, six sides, material, bars… captivity? But it can’t be that bad, right? When tasked with building a pollinator exclusion cage… how different can it be? We discovered that building a cage, any type of cage, is a lot harder than it sounds, at least when one is building their very first cage.

First comes the task of design; we drew out the sides of the cage. Four sides, six sides, five sides? Soon there were fifteen rectangles on a paper, arrows pointing from one to the other, dark lines and light lines indicating different “theoretical” material. Redesign, was inherent. And so, there was over complication, and more over complication, and then simplification and more simplification, before we found what we were looking for, the basics.

(Images taken from Google)

Acquiring materials turned out to be a long process with Lowe’s not being the most familiar of places. Finding wood, making a decision about dimensions, getting said wood cut, searching for flat L’s, locks, hooks, glue, tulle, staples, a staple gun (which initially did not work, and so a replacement was required… like all good things), and finally the motivation to put all the little pieces together. Me and Jack worked Monday and Tuesday, with a bit of anticipation, as we attempted to create our first pollinator exclusion cage. I can say, I got a little carried away with the staple gun when initially applying tulle, but Jack was able to remedy the 100-staple frames to a lot less.

Finally, after much work and some improvised super glue patchwork (tulle rips surprisingly easily, who knew?) we were a able to complete the first pollinator exclusion cage. It truly was a masterpiece. And then we had to build the second one. Jack and Ashley traveled to Lowe’s today to resupply, and then we set off on the second session of construction. Ashley and Elizabeth helped me and Jack apply to tulle to the frames, on one of the windiest days of the week (perfect timing), making our lives much, much easier. And so we worked and completed the second pollinator exclusion cage, this one with a minimal amount of super glue (E-6000).

So we learned, that the building of cages is a task of trial and error. And that as always, practice makes perfect. It was truly a learning experience. Now, we endeavor to use these cages in the next task of keeping pollinators away from C. americana (Bellflower), while at the same time exposing our plant of study to the surrounding environment.


Jack Whalen

Originally from Colorado. I am a rising senior at the College of Wooster, in Ohio. I am currently studying Neurobiology.

Research Direction

Using a predetermined color scale I am interested in observing pollinator preference based on pollen-to-petal color contrast. Using ideal contrast floral displays grown in the green house, I will create arrays with both high and low contrast flowers to observe natural pollinator foraging. Along with array observations I will be assisting in the maintenance and cultivation of bumblebees (Bombus impatiens) and attempting to train the bees to recognize higher contrast flowers. The thought process being that if they can be trained with rewards to recognize contrast, they would also be able recognize that contrast in the wild. 


Being raised in a state that treasures its wilderness and wildlife so much has instilled a life long love with interacting with the wild around us. Having the opportunity to study the American bell flower in its native areas is a treat that I am very excited about.


The Search for Field Sites Begins… 06/20

Today was our first attempt as a group to investigate natural populations of the C. americana (Bellflower) our plant of study. The American Bellflower is native to the forests and prairies of the middle region of the United States, meaning that natural populations can be found as far south as Florida as well as across the Midwest. Our scouting trip today took us just outside Wayne county to The Wilderness Center (, a private nature conservancy that is dedicated to educating and entertaining the local populace with information about the wilderness by which they are surrounded. After a bit of a hike and a brief encounter with some stinging nettles, we located multiple spots where we believe the Bellflower to be residing. Yet because the typical flowering of these plants happens in July we could only identify the plants by there stalk and leaf structures, which is not particularly an easy task.

We left The Wilderness Center with a better sense of what the plants look like and a better knowledge of how to find them. As soon as the plants are flowering this process will be a piece of cake., but until then we will continue to better our skills as plant identification detectives.

Back at the green house our plants are happy and shooting up, our first buds have emerged and we are looking forward to more!

Cleaning the Greenhouse 6/19

Today was our first day back on the job after returning from the University of Virginia on Saturday. This morning we set out for the OARDC around 9am and met with the greenhouse coordinator, Karli Shultz. With the help of Karli and research assistant Kesia, we were able to get started on cleaning up our greenhouse!
The main event of the day was cleaning the swamp cooler, which was pretty gunked up with algae. Using a couple of brooms and a toilet brush, we swept away at the cooler as best we could. We all felt a little uncertain about the whole process, because it seemed that we were only superficially sweeping away whatever dirt and algae stuck to the very surface of the cooler–everything else just seemed to get pushed deeper and deeper. Eventually, with some very helpful advice from Karli, we got the swamp cooler all cleaned up by hosing it down from the outside.

Ashley and Sara hosing down the swamp cooler! 👍

Jack did some great work inside the greenhouse while we were outside cleaning the off the swamp cooler. He pulled weeds, cleaned out the swamp cooler water trough, raised the plant bed, and reorganized the plants to make the greenhouse more walkable. In the end, we think the greenhouse got cleaned up pretty well (and we had a good time)!

Greenhouse 114 looking nice and tidy.
The flowers seem to be doing well! We got our first couple of buds today!

After a break for lunch around noon, we reconvened back at Rubbermaid to work on a few other things. Ashley and Sara did an excellent job of unpacking and labeling all of the Ison Lab’s new equipment, including ice packs, clipboards, water containers, microscope slides, and a tent! Meanwhile, Jack and I cleared out space for said equipment and did a little reorganizing in the basement.

Tomorrow morning we will be heading out bright and early to scope out some possible study sites at the Wilderness Center. Hopefully we’ll come across some promising locations!