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21st Jun 2022

National Pollinator Week

20-26th June

by Laura Dunford RVN

National Pollinator Week

 

What are pollinators?

Pollinators are critters that transfer pollen between plants as they feed on flower nectar, this fertilises the plant allowing it to grow fruit and seeds to then reproduce. In the UK there are over 1000 species of pollinators including bees, wasps, flies, moths, beetles and butterflies. In other parts of the world pollinators also include hummingbirds, bats and even lizards!

 

Why are they important?

Although some plants are self-pollinating, or able to reproduce through wind pollination, around 80% of British plants rely on insect pollination to reproduce. It’s thought that one third of all we eat relies on pollinators! Around 90% of global crops are pollinated by insects, and even plants that are able to self-pollinate such as cotton, will benefit from cross-pollination provided by visiting insects resulting in a more abundant and healthier crop.

Did you know that cocoa plants rely on midges to pollinate them, and coffee plants are mainly pollinated by bees!

Why do they need help?

  • 97% of British wildflower meadows have been lost in the last 70 years.
  • 13 species of bee have become extinct in recent decades.
  • Butterfly numbers have dropped by about 50% since 1976.
  • Numbers have been affected by pesticides, even when they’re not lethal they can reduce productivity and foraging behaviour.
  • 60% of British Wildlife is on the decline, and pollinators are a vital part of the food chain.
  • Some fancier, double-headed flowers are no longer pollinator friendly as the extra petals actually prevent pollinators reaching the nectar.
  • Their habitats have been increasingly destroyed and fragmented by agriculture and urbanisation.

 

What can we do?

Our gardens cover half a million hectares, which is actually more land than the UK’s nature reserves put together. If we all chose to support our wildlife, together we could make our country a haven for wildlife and see it flourish. Even if you don’t have access to a garden, simply planting some hanging baskets or window planters with pollinator friendly flowers will help!

 

Ways in which you can make a difference include:

  • Planting a range of different shaped and sized flowers will feed different kinds of pollinators. Those with shorter tongues will prefer shallow, broad flowers like ox-eye daisies whereas those with longer tongues can access deep, tubular flowers such as foxgloves.
  • Choosing plants that will flower at different times of year, covering March when the first Bumblebee Queens emerge, to October when the last few insects will be preparing to hibernate.
  • Avoiding pesticides where possible, and looking up alternative methods of pest control.
  • Respecting the weeds – 8 dandelions can produce enough nectar to meet a bumblebees baseline energy needs!
  • Favouring Native plants over exotic species as our wildlife is adapted for them.
  • Reducing the frequency in which you mow, and taking part in No Mow May. Many lawns contain an abundance of wild flowers, but they don’t get to bloom and benefit the wildlife before they are cut back. A PlantLife survey showed that lawns with the highest production of flowers and nectar were those that were mowed every 4 weeks.
  • Creating a home for nature by planting wildflower seeds and leaving an area of your garden untouched, making bug hotels, ensuring hedgehog sized tunnels in fencing, putting up bird or bat boxes, starting a compost heap, or making a pond. Imagine the incredible impact that you could have if you did just one of these actions!

 

There is an awful lot going on in the world that we cannot control and that may leave us feeling helpless, however helping pollinators is something achievable that absolutely everyone can get involved with. Even without an outdoor space, or limited funds, you can raise awareness of the importance of pollinators and inspire others!

 

Links for pollinator friendly plants:

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions/best-plants-bees-and-pollinators

https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/conservation-biodiversity/wildlife/plants-for-pollinators

by Laura Dunford RVN
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