Post That for Science! – How Your Social Media Posts About Insects are Helping Scientists

Post That for Science! – How Your Social Media Posts About Insects are Helping Scientists


It is the key to understanding life on earth. It is an understanding of our surroundings. It is our ever-changing environment, a calendar of nature, a catalogue of evolution…

Phenology is all of this and more. Perhaps the best way to comprehensively describe it is that it is a permanently ongoing study that observes and records the cyclical changes within nature, especially regarding the local flora, fauna, and climate. But what is the purpose of studying these periodic events? According to the USA National Phenology Network, it has many, very important applications including, but not limited to:

  • Assisting with the management of invasive species of plants, animals, and insects
  • Optimizing the local agricultural community’s knowledge of the best times to plant and harvest crops
  • Assisting with predications regarding health-related events (ie. intensities of seasonal allergies or risk of infections from an increased mosquito population)
  • Indicating climate change impacts
  • Assessing local species and ecological communities that are vulnerable to changes in climate

When phenology is conducted over a vast enough period of time, scientists are able to recognize patterns not only within individual ecosystems, but across vast distances. This allows us to have a much more comprehensive understanding of Earth and our positions within its shifting environmental conditions.

Social Networking

Especially in the current pandemic, social media is truly a force to be reckoned with. Nearly everyone is constantly on their phone, iPad, tablet, laptop, etc, posting and swiping for hours. But scientists are now saying that this trend to post so much information on social network sites, could actually be extremely beneficial for phenology.

Think of how many videos you’ve laughed at of people freaking out over spiders. These videos along with pictures on Instagram and posts on Facebook have all begun to unknowingly provide a catalogue of different insect species, their prevalence, and their locations across the world. While ecologists and entomologists have been using these social networking platforms for quite a while to achieve a similar purpose, it is becoming more crucial to have the raw, widely-spread data.

Lead author of the study, Adam Hart says that, although there are some caveats, the data they have been gathering, “turns out to be very reliable – in the future, our tendency to share everything could be an absolute goldmine for scientists using this type of passive citizen science.” In particular, Twitter has proven to be one of the most reliable new phenology resources. This is due to the instantaneous nature of posting on this platform as well as its time-stamp feature. Together, these features provide a far more accurate calendar of insect encounters than places like Instagram or Facebook where posting can be delayed days or weeks.

By utilizing social media in tandem with phenology, pest control experts such as ourselves will be able to better predict infestations, thereby having the opportunity to protect our communities better and faster.


Daley, J. (2018) Your Hysterical Tweet About That Spider in Your Sink Could Prove Useful for Science, The Smithsonian Magazine. Available at: (Accessed: September 2020). 

Why Phenology? (2019) USA National Phenology Network. Available at: (Accessed: September 2020).