iNat posting etiquette questions

To a point. Remember that iNat might not be around then, but perhaps the data will… who knows. But of more critical importance, I think, is that by encouraging others to take an interest in wildlife and to place a value on it, we are more likely to be ensuring that those species will still be around in 100 years! We are losing wild habitat at an alarming rate, and it’s largely because those in the positions of power that make decisions don’t value that wildlife, and the people that vote them in don’t either… so we need more voters to develop an appreciation for the environment and wildlife. Hence iNat’s mission of (my interpretation) “take the time to notice something, share it, and talk about how cool it is!”


I can identify with that! They are elusive little creatures. I don’t know if it will help you at all but here are a few things that help me.

First, get a good look at the subject before starting to faff about trying to take pictures. I got that lesson the hard way, trying to take pictures before I looked at it and ended up with neither a good look nor a good picture. So, I decided that looking and understanding took precedence over getting a photo. Ok, I might miss that one rare sighting, but that’s highly unlikely and it’s good practice. I now have three species of bumblebee that I see regularly and can recognise on sight (but not their caste, that’s the next step), and that’s because I’m looking before photographing. Maybe this is an obvious thing, but it took me a bit to realise it.

Sunflowers are great and that’s where I’m getting most of my photos at the moment. They are up at our eye level, and they are really a whole field of flowers (from the point of view of a pollinator) so they hang around for a bit when the sunflower is in its prime. Other things that attract them being around too are helpful, because they come and linger, but really the sunflowers are where I’m getting my best noobie photos. (Plus you get seeds for the birds when the flowers are done, extra bonus!)

Assuming you’re taking photos on your phone, learn to focus the camera, which usually is very simple, just tap on the screen while the camera is on over the image of the bee or whatever you are trying to focus on - it’s a simple trick that can make the difference between a blurry image and a sharp one. Keep tapping and snapping as your bee moves around.

Last thing, and I got this from the Wildlife Trust lady that I took training from, restrict yourself at first to recognising a few common species. She was all about the eight common bumblebees in the UK. Learn to recognise those, or the equivalent wherever you are, and then you will be able to tell (after a while) when something is a bit different. I think that’s pretty good advice. Don’t confuse yourself with all the rare species that you might possibly see, start from the assumption that you’re looking at the ones that are most common in your area, and most of the time you’ll be right.

I hope this makes sense and maybe helps in some way! :D :D And please forgive me if I’m just stating the bleeding obvious, I’m still new at this.



Good point, data storage is an unknown. I hope that these records we are currently capturing are going to be preserved, but as you said, we don’t know.

Yes, you are entirely correct, we need to value these creatures now so that 100 years from now, they are not but a distant memory in a dusty database.


Thanks @elenmirie - there’s some helpful tips there. I don’t have great vision and it isn’t always possible for me to see things well in the field. If I can get a photo, I can put it on the computer screen and enlarge it. Not being able to see well means I can ‘finesse’ the focus on my phone but not guarantee it’s completely in focus. (tapping the screen works sometimes but not always - I often have to go in and manually focus)

I’m getting better at seeing a bumble bee and thinking ‘that’s not the kind I often see’ and trying extra hard to get photos.And I can identify at handful of bees (to species) in the field. There are a few guides for Bumble Bees I’ve found but I haven’t yet found much identification info on carpenter, mining, woolcarder, sweat, etc bees. - and they may not be identifiable in the field or by photo, which I’m fine with.

I like your id of choosing one or two new species to look for. It’s a strategy I’ve used with birds as well: ‘learn to identify a Broad-wing and then only look to see if that hawk up there is a Broad-wing or not’ vs. ‘try to memorize markings for six different raptors’! :-)

I have some great areas for observing bees (and other pollinators). I have a little plot as does my neighbor, of pollinator attracting flowers. I also have, quite close, a public garden that has tons of pollinator attracting flowers. In Sept, the garden attracts up to a dozen hummingbirds and everyone is all agog at the birds - trying to photograph them. I’m still prowling around the flower beds looking for insects!


If in doubt post and report - nobody ever got into trouble for recording too much data


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But… she’s overobserving her artificial garden…

As an M.S. Zoology, PhD. parasite genetics, w/ hobby in endangered plant conservation surveys, I’m sorry to say: I have no interest whatsoever in your 10th observation of a garden denizen. On a par with TV advertising where I hit the mute button. What for? You may consider checking your rate on number of different species reported instead.
Some join iNaturalist from a gaming perspective to see whether they can get the high score and have people notice their productivity, even if ID’s are wrong. As others have pointed out, from a scientific standpoint, as a population statistic this forum isn’t suitable.
You’ll hear a hearty “Just keep posting whatever, yay for your enthusiasm!” from many education enthusiasts. But when a difficult genus needs attention, and experts need to share what the criteria are, it’s a shame to drown that out with Muzak.

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I view this differently. iNaturalist has a huge dataset of verifiable records what’s where when. Much of the iNaturalist data I’ll never use. Probably some of mine will never be used. I can’t know what others will want someday. Even flowering times of cultivated plants might prove useful some day. Whatever we do with the data, we’ll have to sort through it, separate the good stuff (for us) from the Muzak.

We also don’t know what an enthusiastic poster of backyard robins will go on to do later. What other creatures he may post or what other contributions he may be inspired to make toward understanding and conserving biodiversity.

So I’m OK with multiple photos of what’s in someone’s backyard. I’m even OK with multiple posts of cultivated tulips, say, though I’ll be much happier if the poster marks them as cultivated.


There’s another problem, in some regions plants get zero attention, plus people don’t care about cultivated stuff, I remember checking California plants, saw hundreds (in fact thousands) of RG plants that are obviously cultivated. People see a plant in a pot (like a palm, not a weed) and think yeah, confirm, end of the story. That’s weird as even with that many obs that appear in Cali, I expected much less of that and more attention paid, and I in fact it’s almost everywhere on the map. And not only amatours, people with thousands+ obs don’t do that, as it seems very few people leave comments about how to post cultivated stuff. Not mentioning the known situation in South Africa where a known person post not only unknowns, but big part of those obs are cultivated, still, they’re also confirmed and RG.

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The problem becomes when people are going through observations to identify, and 90% of them are common or invasive taxa that anyone would have in their back yard. In that case people with expertise give up trying to filter the signal from the noise, and the interesting things get left unidentified.

Backyard species don’t take long time to id though, and I’m in contact with botany experts and they always vote “more=better” while uploading data is correct and if person cares to mark thing cultivated if it is, some of them check all plant RG too.

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When there are hundreds of honeybees for every one native bee, it takes time just to scroll through them all.

But if it’s a honey bee that’s a copy-paste work, so, well, if you want to scroll it’s ok, insects are one of the hardest group to id on iNat and there’re multiple reasons for that.


There are a lot of ways to filter an ID search. I’d suggest you check out this thread on using iNat urls to filter.
If you don’t want to see certain species, you don’t have to. I respect you want to focus on your area of interest. But please remember, iNaturalist’s purpose is to connect people with nature, not to create data.


I’d just like to point out that the OP is focussing on pollinators rather than the plants. It’s a great example of how one focus - domestic plants - can expand into other interests.


I have a similar problem, but for a different reason. During our winters, there is not much out and about. I still take my camera on my walks, and have many images of Chickadees, Nuthatches and Hairy/Downy woodpeckers. When I post them I console myself with the thought that I’m confirming that they are still here, no matter what! Their absence would - to me - signify that something is wrong.


Those don’t work if you’re trying to filter observations without IDs.

The same would apply if you were out doing fieldwork and looking for rare or exciting organisms - you spend most of the time seeing common and abundant species instead. That’s just how nature works, it’s not the fault of people observing what’s around them.


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