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Create a Buzz guide to pollinating insects

Bee on flower in front of giant bee sculpture

Intro

Pollinating insects are a crucial part of the ecosystem. They enable plants in our farms, gardens and countryside to bear fruit and flourish but threats including habitat loss, intensive agriculture and climate change have seen their numbers plummet. 

There are at least 1,500 species in the UK: 250 native species of bee (including just one native honey bee) are joined by a plethora of hoverflies, flies, wasps, beetles, thrips, moths and butterflies.

European Dark Honey Bee

Honey bees

Honey bees pollinate over a hundred different fruits and vegetables. In Britain, the number of honey bee colonies has almost halved since the 1950s. Increased use of pesticides (especially neonicotinoids) is especially harmful. Steer clear of plants or seeds treated with neonicotinoids! The Eden Project is a protected reserve for the native dark honey bee (pictured).

Bee on cornflower with ox eye daisies

Bumblebees

Bumblebees are ‘buzz pollinators’ – grabbing hold of flowers then vibrating their flight muscles to shake tightly packed pollen loose. One third of the UK’s 25 bumblebee species are endangered. Help them by planting flowers that will bloom in all seasons. Please do not buy imported bumblebees as they can introduce novel pests and diseases.

Solitary mine bee on pyracantha flowers

Solitary bees

There are over 240 species of solitary bee in the UK. They live entirely alone. They also don’t make honey. However, they’re great pollinators as they collect pollen from a wide range of plants. We can help look after them by providing sheltered spots for them to nest.

Hoverfly on flower

Hoverflies

After bees, hoverflies are the UK’s most important pollinators.  Our homegrown species are joined each year by billions of hoverflies which fly in across the Channel, helping pollinate our crops, whilst their larvae eat trillions of aphids!

To attract hoverflies and their pest-munching larvae, plant flowers with easy to reach nectar, like fennel or cow parsley. The hoverfly pictured is enjoying feeding from a celandine flower.

Butterfly on thistle flower

Butterflies

Adult butterflies ‘taste’ with their feet, seeking out the right plant to lay their eggs on. Caterpillars of Red Admiral, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies all feed on nettles. By providing plants for butterflies and their caterpillars, a well thought out garden can attract more than 20 species

Moth flying towards flower

Moths

As well as visiting flowers in our gardens and countryside, research suggests moths pollinate crops like peas, soya and oilseed rape. Moths and their caterpillars often need different habitats – diverse gardens are best for both.

Swollen-thighed beetle

Beetles

About a quarter of the UK’s 4,000 beetle species are pollinators, including the swollen-thighed beetle, whose larvae live in the dried stems of plants. Delaying cutting back until spring provides homes for baby beetles.

Wasp

Wasps

Solitary wasps and their relatives, social wasps, are nectar-sipping pollinators and pest-munching predators. Every summer, to feed their young social wasps alone capture around 14,000 tons of insect pests – the equivalent of 2,200 African bull elephants. Yes they can sometimes be annoying but they’re super-helpful too!

How to encourage pollinating insects

How to encourage pollinating insects

Simple changes to the way we look after our gardens, schools, parks and roadsides can help pollinators thrive and bring the wonder of ‘wild’ back into our lives.

  • Mow less and leave space for life-cycles to unfold.
  • Choose seeds/plants with pollinators in mind and avoid buying those treated with neonicotinoids.
  • Spread the word about what you know and help scientists learn by recording what you see.

Exciting plans creating a buzz at the Eden Project

The Create a Buzz project comprises:

  • a major art installation: Pollinator commission by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
  • a Create a Buzz trail in Eden’s Outdoor Gardens with an accompanying app
  • a community buzz stop project for local households
  • a range of wildflower meadows planted for pollinators with the National Wildflower Centre
  • scientific research projects with the University of Exeter investigating plant pollinator interactions. 
Garfield Weston Foundation logo

The Create a Buzz project was made possible thanks to a grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Butterfly, moth and hoverfly photos by Will Hawkes
Wasp photo by Thomas Millot on Unsplash
Beetle photo by David Gould/Naturespot

Sir Tim Smit on the native dark honey bee