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butterfly perching on green plant

See you later, pollinator?

How our Create a Buzz project is protecting pollinators.

It’s easy to miss these tiny creatures as they go about their short and busy lives, but without them we might not exist either.

If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.

Professor E.O Wilson, biologist

“If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”


It’s no secret that our pollinators are in trouble.

Pollinator numbers have been falling since the middle of the 19th century, when the guano fertiliser first hit our shores and wildflowers got crowded out by pasture. Every step forward in efficiency since, from the creation of artificial nitrogen-based fertilisers to changes in farming methods and the introduction of new pesticides, has harmed them. Today, pollinator numbers are falling dramatically.

Most of the world’s plant species require pollinators to help them reproduce. Further afield bats, birds and even the odd possum play a role, but in Britain, it’s just the insects that keep our flowers blooming, which help ensure our fruit and vegetables grow. Honeybees are often regarded as the crucial crop pollinators. In the USA they get bussed around on pollination tours, but in Britain most beekeeping is for small-scale honey production. Here, it’s the wild pollinators which do most of the work. Bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, beetles and flies are the pollinators which keep things ticking over. It’s been estimated that these unpaid workers are responsible for over a third of the food we consume. That’s £690 million’s worth of help in the UK alone. And thanks to pollinators around the globe, we can enjoy everyday exotics like tea, coffee and chocolate. If they disappear, we will still have the wind pollinated crops that make up most of our diets, like wheat, oats, and rice, but their value goes far beyond what ends up on our plates.

Pollinators are part of a vast and complex system that makes life possible. The plants they fertilise become food for other creatures, and the pollinators themselves are important food sources for other creatures, like birds, bats and frogs. Protecting wild pollinators means protecting the landscapes and plants they rely on, and as our Create a Buzz programme has shown, this is something everyone can do.

Funded by the Garfield Weston Foundation, Create a Buzz has seen new wildflower meadows and pollinator pitstops bloom across Eden and beyond as we reached out into our community to raise awareness of the plight of the insects that underpin much of the life on this planet, and work with scientists to understand how to help these pollinators thrive.

A wildflower meadow with yellow, purple, white and red flowers in bloom

New wildflower habitats

A century ago, before the widespread use of fertiliser and pesticides, there were plenty of wildflowers lurking among the meadows, pastures and even crops for pollinators to visit. Today, the vast monocultures of wind pollinated crops and green pastures are effectively deserts for pollinating insects. Thanks to Create a Buzz, the National Wildflower Centre has added another five hectares of annual and perennial wildflower fields to the Eden estate, as well as bringing our road verges to life. They provide rich hunting grounds for pollinators, including our hives of Cornish black bees, and with the University of Exeter, the Create a Buzz research programme is using the fields to determine the best ways to lure them in.

A giant bee sculpture installed on the side of a green bank with the Eden biome's in view in the distance

Trails and tunes

Here at Eden, we’ve created a new trail for visitors that takes them from Bombus the Giant Bee to the new Pollinator Pathmaker (see pages 10–13). Younger visitors have also had the chance to explore wildflower names, discover how pollination works and singalong to songs about meadows and pollinators with ‘Musical Meadows’, a special series of Deep Roots New Shoots Music O’clock sessions. 

6 Eden apprentices smile in front of their newly transformed "Buzz Stop". A local bus stop can be seen with plants in planters on its walls.

Community Buzz Stops

As landscapes become increasingly fragmented by roads and construction projects, it becomes harder for pollinators to navigate their way to new sources of pollen and nectar. Insect populations become isolated and forced to inbreed, making them more vulnerable to disease and pests. Creating pollinator pathways helps to link up dispersed populations. Community-grown Buzz Stops are an easy way to help ensure that there’s plenty of food available for pollinators and encourage them to fly further afield. Urban gardens are thriving but gardens in rural areas are even more essential as pesticides and a lack of wildflowers make food scarce.

400 Buzz Stops have been created with the help of our friends at People & Gardens, who grew over 3,600 individual pollinator-friendly plug plants from organic pesticide-free seeds. They were distributed via food banks to local households, schools, community gardens, care homes and migrant worker communities along with instructions on how to care for them. Later this spring Eden apprentices will create a series of themed Buzz Stops at bus stops in the nearby Clay Villages, ranging from wildflower patches to moon gardens for night pollinators.

A group of children crouched on the floor examining the grass

Paradise Pastures

Following a successful trial with Roche Primary School, the Schools Team have launched a set of pollinator-friendly science lesson plans for KS2. They encourage children to explore and develop their understanding of science and nature and consider creating their own Pollinator Pathmaker garden.

How you can help:

  • Take part in a citizen science project like Big Bug Hunt or the Big Butterfly Count.
  • Grow a range of flowering plants that will see pollinators through the year.
  • Do nothing! Take part in No Mow May to give pollinators a great start to the summer – or just mow less frequently through the year.


This article first appeared in issue 49 of the Eden Magazine, which is available exclusively for Eden Project Supporters, Members and Patrons. Find out more.