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Pollination

Wildflower meadow

Vanessa Amaral-Rogers

One out of every three mouthfuls of our food depends on pollination taking place. It is almost impossible to over-emphasise the importance of the service pollinators perform for us.

Many plants rely on insects to pollinate their flowers and so complete their reproductive cycle – most plants cannot set seed without being pollinated (receiving the pollen, usually from another flower). Without bees, hoverflies and other insects visiting flowers, there would be no strawberries, apples, avocados, chocolate, cherries, olives, blueberries, carrots, grapes, pumpkins, pears, cotton, plums or peanuts…. And very few flowers in our gardens and countryside.

It is estimated that 84% of EU crops (valued at £12.6 billion) and 80% of wildflowers rely on insect pollination.

Yet pollinators have traditionally been ignored as we have always taken it for granted that they would be there to carry out their free services to mankind. Now it is becoming apparent that if current trends continue, we may not have enough wild pollinators for all the crops our growing population requires. That is a truly frightening prospect.

Wild pollinators include bumblebees and other bees (250 species), butterflies and moths (2200 species), flies (6700) and various other insects such as beetles, wasps and thrips.

Pollinators in trouble

  • Half of our 27 bumblebee species are in decline
  • Three of these bumblebee species have already gone extinct
  • Seven bumblebee species have declined by more than 50% in the last 25 years
  • Two-thirds of our moths and 71% of our butterflies are in long term decline.
  • Across Europe 38% of bee and hoverfly species are in decline; only 12% are increasing.

Pollinators face a perfect storm of problems:

  • Unpredictable/extreme weather resulting from our changing climate
  • Intensive farming, which has fragmented and isolated flower-rich habitats and affected the quality of much that still remains
  • Pesticide use – intended for the ‘troublesome’ insects but killing the beneficial ones too
  • Loss of flowery habitat to urban growth and the associated sanitising of the nearby countryside
  • Inappropriate tree planting on flowery habitats
  • Loss of and damage to brownfield sites.

Imagine living in a desert with barely any food, water or shelter. That is what much of the modern British countryside is now like for many wild pollinators.

What can you do to help?

  • Join Buglife to support our campaigns to help pollinators
  • Get involved with particular campaigns near you
  • Grow your garden with pollinators in mind.
  • Try recording pollinators such as bumblebees and hoverflies