Pollinators are in trouble!
How can gardeners help?
Many flowers need pollen from other flowers to set seeds. Bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects move pollen from flower to flower, they are “pollinators”. Without these insects we would have few fruits and seeds. An estimated 84% of EU crops rely on insect pollination. No apples, raspberries, cherries, almonds and many other crops without pollinators!
Yet pollinators are in trouble. A 71% decline of butterflies, 38% decline in bees and hoverflies, 66% decline in moths. (see: http://www.buglife.org.uk/bugs-and-habitats/pollination)
Gardeners can help, garden flowers are a great source of the pollen and nectar needed by pollinators. Please do these three things:-
(1) Provide pollinator friendly flowers throughout the year.
There is lots of advice on which pollinator-friendly flowers to grow. Have plants in flower from early Spring to late Autumn. Avoid plants with double or multi-petalled flowers which may lack nectar and pollen, or insects may have difficulty in gaining access. Buy plants with the RHS “Perfect for Pollinators” logo.
(2) Give places for insect pollinators to live.
Gardens can be a refuge from the intensively farmed countryside. Leave wild areas, long grass, piles of dead wood, holes in walls in the garden. Don’t cut down dead plants in the Autumn as many insects overwinter in plant stems, seed heads and leaf litter.
Many solitary bees (not honey or bumble bees) lay eggs in small holes. A “bee house” is easily built, see: www.foxleas.com/make-a-bee-hotel.asp
(3) Avoid using chemicals that harm pollinators.
There are concerns that synthetic chemical pesticides harm pollinators as well as plant pests. They may build up in the soil and get washed into streams and sewers. The alternative is organic gardening, using natural products and biological controls, using one organism to control another. Avoid insect traps and sticky paper which will catch pollinators as well as pests.