Pollinators and their Importance

Gardens and wildflower meadows offer some of the most important habitats for the wide variety of bees and other pollinators found in the UK and it has never been more important than now, to help save our bees! 

Pollinators

When people think of pollinators, they generally think of bees, but pollinators can also be butterflies, moths, hoverflies and many other species.  Bees and other pollinating insects play an essential role in our ecosystems.  A third of all our food depends on their pollination! 

The job of a pollinator is to move pollen from the male part of the flower (the stamen), to the female part of the flower (the stigma).  The pollen then goes down the stigma into the ovule to fertilize the seeds.  Fertilization needs to take place for fruit and seeds to be produced, otherwise the plants cannot reproduce.

Some plants can self pollinate, so therefore don’t require pollinators to do this job.  Most though, are cross pollinated, so require pollinators to transfer pollen from one flower to another.

 

Bees 

There are an estimated 20,000 species of bee worldwide, with approximately 270 different species found in Britain.

Below are some examples:

Honeybee

  • There are over 300 species of bee in the UK.
  • Is a social bee that forms large colonies overwinter.
  • Colony may contain 60,000 bees. 

Solitary Bee

  • There are 260 species including: Andrena, Osmia, Megachile and Lasioglossum. 
  • Females of solitary bees constructs and provisions a nest on their own. 
  • Will often nest close to one another. 

Bumblebee

  • Is a social bee.
  • Nests die out in late Summer or early Autumn. 
  • There are 24 species of bumblebees in Britain but only 12 species are commonly seen in gardens. 
  • A nest may contain 200 bees.

Butterflies 

Butterflies are the second largest pollinator, after bees. Whilst the caterpillar eats leaves, the adult generally feeds from the nectar of flowers. There are 59 butterfly species in Britain, these are partial to different wildflowers and plants, whether at the larval stage or as an adult. The following list is a sample of the plants and wildflowers favoured by certain caterpillars and butterflies: 

  • Acmon Blue – Buckwheat, lupines, milkvetch 
  • American Painted Lady – Cudweed, everlast 
  • Bairds Swallowtail – Dragon Sagebrush 
  • Black Swallowtail – Parsley, dill, fennel, common rue 
  • Coral Hairstreak – Wild black cherry, American and Chickasaw plum, black chokeberry 
  • Dun Skipper – Sedges, grasses including purpletop 
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Wild black cherry, ash, tulip tree, willow, sweetbay, basswood 
  • Giant Swallowtail – Prickly ash, citrus, common rue, hoptree, gas plant, torchwood 
  • Gray Comma – Gooseberry, azalea, elm 
  • Great Purple Hairstreak – Mistletoe 
  • Gulf Fritillary – Maypops, other passion vines 
  • Henrys Elfin – Redbud, dahoon and yaupon hollies, maple leaved viburnum, blueberries 
  • Monarch – milkweeds
  • Painted Lady Cosmopolite – Thistles, mallows, nievitas, yellow fiddleneck
  • Pygmy Blue – Saltbush, lambs quarters, pigweed 
  • Red Admiral/White Admiral – Wild cherries, black oats, aspens, yellow and black birch
  • Silver Spotted Skipper – locusts, wisteria, other legumes 
  • Spicebush Swallowtail – Sassafras, spicebush 
  • Sulphurs – Clover, peas, vetch, alfalfa, asters 
  • Variegated Fritillary – Passion flower, maypop, violets, stonecrop, purslane

Why are pollinators in decline?

Pollinators face many stressors. Honey bees and other pollinators species such as bumble bees suffer from exposure to a parasitic mite disease called Varroa Destructor. These are tiny red-brown parasites that feed and live on adult bees, they will reproduce on larvae, causing weakening of bees as well passing on viruses. 

The loss of biodiversity and the wide spread use of pesticides are major threats for wild pollinators. Farmers spray crops with a variety of products designed to protect from pests, but it is believed that a number of these are causing a decline bees.

 

What can we do?

  • Ensure to have plenty of nectar & pollen rich plants.
  • Avoid using pesticides as this will harm your pollinators. To keep pests away, plant marigolds and tomatoes to repel greenfly. 
  • Provide a sheltered area using upturned, broken plant pots with opening points for entry.
  • Create a bee hotel by using a bunch of bamboo canes or a bee hotel housing can be purchased from many places. 
  • Provide water for pollinators.
  • Become a beekeeper.

What flowers are best for your pollinators?

Spring

  • Bluebell 
  • Crocus
  • Viburnum 
  • Lungwort 

Early Summer

  • Borage 
  • Globe Thistle 
  • Poppy 
  • Sweet Pea
  • Thyme 

Late Summer

  • Cornflower
  • Foxglove
  • Honeysuckle
  • Lavender 

Native and Non-Native Wildflower Seed Display Boxes for Retailers

We sell native and non native seed individually packed in 10g packets (other weights can be arranged by request), one species per packet.

Native species available (others available on request) – Common Poppy, Oxeye Daisy, Corn Cockle, Field Scabious, Yellow Rattle, Red Campion, Cornflower and Foxglove.
Non-native species available (others available on request) – Californian Poppy (Orange and mixed), Coneflower, Pheasants Eye, Cosmos, Scarlet Flax, Cornflower – Double Ball and Love in a Mist.

Please enquire for more details