At least 1500 species of insects act as pollinators in the UK including bumble bees, the honey bee, solitary bees, hoverflies, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies and moths. There has been much in the media in recent years about bumblebee declines, with six out of 25 species of wild bumblebee having declined by up to 80% in the last 50 years and honeybee populations have also crashed. However many other pollinator species are also under pressure, for example a 70% decline in butterfly numbers. All have complex life cycles and specific needs. Most require food in the form of pollen and nectar, often quite species specific , and need a home for shelter and nest building.
Our pollinators face a range of pressures arising from habitat loss , pests and diseases, competition from invasive species, climate change and use of some pesticides. However they are vital for food production, it has been estimated that over 90% of the world’s crops are insect pollinated, but also for our wildflowers and garden plants. But a result of the way the landscape has changed over the last 50 years, not all insect pollinators can readily find the food and shelter they need. In 2014 the government set out a strategy to help pollinators. Rushcliffe Borough Council and Nottinghamshire Trust have been working with other partners to help pollinators for many years, developing wildflower meadows / blue butterfly sites on land at Wilwell Farm Cutting, Wilford Claypits, The Green Line and Collington Common in West Bridgford, The Hook, Ladybay, Skylarks, Rushcliffe Country Park, Cotgrave Country Park, Meadow Park, East Leake, as well as sites like Gotham Sandbanks and Bingham Linear Park
But everyone can play their part. So whether you are a farmer, a gardener, or a manager of urban or amenity spaces, there is something you can do to help our valuable insect pollinators.
Five simple things you can do are:
Growing more flowers, shrubs and trees that provide nectar and pollen as food for bees and other pollinators throughout the year. Native wildflowers are especially good.
Leaving patches of land to grow wild with plants like stinging nettles and dandelions to provide other food sources (such as leaves for caterpillars) and breeding places for butterflies and moths.
Garden grass often contains a little wildflower community, so cut grass less often and ideally remove the grass cuttings to and allow them to flower (makes for a more colorful lawn as well)
Avoid disturbing or destroying nesting or hibernating insects, in places like grass margins, bare soil, hedgerows, trees, dead wood or walls.
Think carefully about use of pesticides especially where pollinators are active or nesting or where plants are in flower.
For more information see http://www.beesneeds.org.uk/ or http://www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk/