Welsh Pollinators

Everyone knows that insects are important in pollinating plants, but did you know just how much we rely on them? Some plants can use wind or water to transfer pollen from one plant to another, the vast majority of them however rely on insects to do this for them – and they do it all for free! A third of what we eat is on our plates thanks to insects. More specifically it is estimated that 84% of EU crops and 80% of wildflowers rely on insect pollination.

Diversity of pollinators

What do you imagine when you hear the word insect pollinator? It would very likely be a honey bee. While this is a correct answer, the honey bee is only one of thousands of insect species that pollinate our plants and crops. These are called wild pollinators and include bumblebees and other bees such as mining, mason, or leaf-cutter bees (c. 270 species), butterflies and moths (c.2500), flies such as hoverflies and soldierflies, (c. 1500) and various other insects like beetles (c. 250), bugs, thrips, and even wasps (2000)!

Welsh bees

Wales is home to nationally rare and threatened species of bees and for some, such as Large mason bee (Osmia xanthomelana), it supports the last known population in the UK. Wales also supports important UK populations of species such as Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum), Moss carder bee (Bombus muscuorum), Thick-margined mini-miner bee (Andrena falsifica), Tormentil mining bee (Andrena tarsata), Square-jawed sharp-tailed bee (Coelioxys mandibularis), and the dune-loving western UK form of Vernal colletes (Colletes cunicularius). See the Wales Threatened Bee Report for more details.

Welsh pollinators are in trouble!

Recent studies showed severe population declines in many insect groups including solitary bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, and hoverflies across the globe including the UK. The main threats to pollinators in Wales are:

1. Habitat damage, loss and fragmentation

– 96% of wildflower-rich habitats like unimproved grassland and heathland have been lost in Wales

– with this loss, insects lose essential sources of pollen and nectar as well as space and resources for their nests

2. Agricultural intensification and the use of pesticides

– 80% of land in Wales is now used for agricultural purposes

– intensive agriculture can have negative impacts on pollinator through e.g. use of herbicides,  pesticides and artificial fertiliser, use of heavy machinery, removal of natural habitat including field margins and hedgerows, water and soil pollution

3. Spread of diseases

– Verroa mite that attacks honey bees has been recorded from Wales; these mites have a potential to spread to other similar pollinators such as solitary bees and bumblebees

4. Spread of invasive non-native  species

– alien plants like Japanese knotweed and rhododendron can replace native plants and thus change the availability of suitable flowers for insects to forage on

5. Changing climate

– climate change can negatively influence pollinators by e.g. drought summers, cold springs, prolonged flooding, and coastal storm damage

Important pollinator habitat in Wales

With hundreds of different pollinator species in Wales, there are also many different habitats they all require to survive. Some of the most important habitats for pollinators in Wales are:

– Grasslands (acid, calcareous, coastal)

– Heathlands and moorlands

– Coastal dunes

– Brownfield sites & quarries

– Field margins

– Roadside verges

– Soft rock cliffs

– Coastal levels

Please see the Wales Threatened Bee Report for further information about threatened bees and their habitat associations.

What can you do to help pollinators?

There are a number of different ways you can contribute to conservation of our pollinators in Wales:

– If you own/manage land or if you live and work within a B-Lines – we need your help! Please get in touch – we can provide support and advice on restoring and managing habitat for pollinators.

– get involved in Buglife’s local projects: South Wales B-Lines and Giving Nature a Home in Cardiff

– join in with national recording schemes for pollinators: BeeWalk, POMS – UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme

– submit records of specific pollinator groups to their relevant recording schemes: National Moth Recording SchemeUK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme and, BWARS

– deliver pollinator-friendly actions and obtain Bee Friendly status for your school, community, business or town!

– become a Buglife member and donate your membership fee to a good cause!

– create an insect-friendly garden

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