Value of using a single pollinator host plant field

Many different pollinator plant observation fields are currently in use. Previous forum topics concluded that field standardization/merging may not be currently possible, at least without development work.

Below are results for observations per field name, with the description of each field in brackets (visible when clicking on it on observations). Using the URL:, pasting in the field name after “field:” Update: some turned out to be non-pollination-related in their descriptions (vs. field names). Although, it’s possible for authors to edit descriptions, and many of those are probably unknowingly used for pollination by some too.

48,725 Nectar / Pollen delivering plant [Flowering plant being visited]
43,313 Nectar Plant [Flowering plant whose nectar is being consumed.]
31,167 Interaction->Visited flower of [species seen visiting this plant (possibly pollinating).]
11,997 Visiting a flower of: (Interaction) [pollinating, thieving or eating flowers]
6,674 Flower/Plant Name (what plant was the pollinator visiting?)
3,205 pollinates [What species of plant was being pollinated?]
382 Name of Plant or Shrub where you observed the pollinator
310 plant used for pollen
33 What plant is being pollinated?
16 Name of plant where pollinator is observed

Ambiguous meaning:
17,706 Name of Associated Plant [scientific name of plant visited]
13,708 Name of Host Plant [species name if known]
226 Flowers visited [Plant]
30 Plant Host [plant species on which you saw the arthropod]

40,265 Host Plant ID [Host of a herbivore or parasite species]
24,013 Host [Species hosting parasite or mutual/commensal symbiont]
21,208 Host Plant [Host of a herbivore or parasite species]
8,574 Insect Host Plant [plant on which eggs deposited/larva feeding]
719 Interaction->Visited plant [For insects that are on plants but not feeding.]

Term used on Discover Life bee or wasp species pages: Host (includes DL-record plant database)
No linked plant records on GBIF yet.

I’d recommend we choose or create a single field to use (still optionally though). That would allow all observations to be filtered by it, help add more observations to projects, and may help if there ever comes a development-end way to transfer plant records to DL and GBIF. I’d prefer readable, standard ones like host, host plant, floral association, pollinator plant, or associated plant. Fields also display with a description, so longer description-like names don’t seem necessary (even if some currently have many observations).

I’d also support any feature requests to standardize fields or to transfer the plant linked records when verified iNaturalist records transfer to DL and GBIF. A general topic seemed the best place to start.

Any thoughts, or more results from searching other fields?

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Continued from above. @wowsomany @srullman @bob15noble @cgwilson1 @imacuriousjuan

I’ve been using this one and I had no idea there are so many. Anyone know if there’s an easy way to find all observations where entered data in this field (to change to a more common option)?

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I agree that ‘floral association’ would be a good, straightforward one as it’s a term already used academically. I stopped using ‘host plant’ because to me that gives more the connotation of a plant-herbivore interaction (though I realize it works for specialist bees too) but more people may be using it for caterpillars and the like, thus making it more cumbersome to use for pollinators too, as it wouldn’t be unique to that taxon.


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I think host plant is better for galls and the like.


i use host plant ID for things like galls, leaf mines, larvae, rusts, anything that is living off of the plant, not pollination
i use the interaction-> one for pollination


This is the URL format I used, with the field you mentioned inputted into it:

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Yes that too, absolutely!

All, good points about some fields having ambiguous/non-pollination meanings. I updated the text to list field descriptions except when self-defined (field authors and descriptions are visible when clicking on them in observations). In theory, descriptions could be redefined by authors, or multiple fields could be created with the same name but different descriptions (but could get complicated).

I wouldn’t mind host/host plant - if a description used matched, which might not yet. I’ve seen host refer to plants a pollinator visits, generalist or specialist (see Discover Life) as a somewhat standard term. Although, it can be used for the unrelated meanings too. I agree, a more specific name like floral association/host could work (I don’t think it’s been created as a field yet).

I felt the longer names are somewhat cumbersome/unnecessary… I’d prefer the longer part added to the description area of the field vs. the field name. Although yes, that ‘interaction’ field is widely used (31,167 observations).

Most people use it for miners, gallers and wandering insects, it’s a term used on websites about those topics.

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You mean host/plant host, right? From mostly reading bee-related articles, I’ve seen it also used there. Probably like a shorthand that can be used in multiple contexts, once the context is known. But I agree if it’s already used here for non-pollination (including in field descriptions), another may be better.

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One hitch to point out: probably a big reason why there are so many observation fields is all the projects. There are a lot of pollinator projects and they all have different sets of criteria for their observation fields, here’s some that I occasionally use.
Pollinator Associations
Flower Visiting Wasps of the World
=Both use: Name of Associated Plants
Queen Quest
=uses: Plant Species Observed
Backyard Bumble Bee Count
=Uses: Flower/Plant Name
I’m sure there are a lot of others so I’m not sure how we would standardize except by choosing the most ambiguous one that could cover everything (it seems like projects typically do that for the top field, see above, it’s just that they all do different ones). I don’t think host plant or pollinator plant would work, as an example, a couple of weeks ago, I found a pollen specialist on a different plant, so in all likelihood, she was just getting a quick nectar shot and not actively collecting pollen.

There is definitely desire for and value in consolidating observation fields, given the number of threads on the topic. However practically I don’t know if there’s any way to do it since it seems like it would require manually re-annotating every observation used by the “wrong” observation fields…

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Interesting discussion, I never knew there were so many fields with potential overlap! If I may add my own two cents, I definitely prefer “floral host” or “floral association” for pollination-related matters. Though I can imagine that finer designations might be of interest in some cases too (e.g., pollen-collecting vs. nectaring?). I think “host plant” is too ambiguous for this given other forms of herbivory as already mentioned. And I certainly don’t like the general term “host” as used on DL, especially since I more typically use it to refer to other insects given my personal interest in cuckoo bees! This also obviously applies to many other parasitic hymenopterans and dipterans which may also be pollinators.

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I use “Associated species with names lookup” the most (the name is confusing… “Associated Species” would be better). It’s currently used on 50,333 observations. I use it in conjunction with the “Ecological interaction” field.

I started using it after someone from one of the pollinator projects was adding it to a bunch of my observations. I like having one field that I can use for just about any interaction.

If an observation field has been entered on an observation, you can click on the name of the field and a context menu will appear giving this option.

However, you can not edit or delete an observation field entered by another user, only they can do that. Nor can you bulk enter them, they can only be added (other than on your own records) one at a time,

Merging them is problematic as discussed in other threads due to their use in projects. You can not edit someone else’s project to force it to use the field you want.

Is it possible to create a new one an automatically add it to those observations with old ones and make a request to change project settings to ask for this new one?