Importance of Pollinators

Irish Version of Site
Recently there has been a huge reduction in insect numbers in Ireland, including those that specialise in visiting garden flowers. Bees, butterflies, hover flies and moths are all at risk with many varieties already extinct.

It is thought that the huge reduction in the amounts and varieties of native wild flowers in the countryside has had a huge effect with both a loss of foods (pollen and nectar) and the medicinal benefits of a diverse range of feeds has had a catastrophic effect together with the widespread use of pesticides. Gardens have now become very important in many insects lives.

The majority of plants require insects to pollinate them to produce seeds and fruits. Without the pollinators many of our fruits and vegtables would disappear.PeacockPlums, apples, strawberries, blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and much more of our local produce depends on these insects. These insects are also vital in the pollination of our remaining wildflowers, many garden flowers (eg lupins, delphiniums, etc) and many ornamental trees and shrubs(eg Buddleia). EU research has it that insect pollinators are worth €153 billion a year, with ¾ of the worlds crops dependent on them. The complete loss of insect pollinators, particularly that of honey bees and wild bees which are the main crop pollinators, would not lead to the catastrophic disappearance of agriculture throughout the world, but would result in substantial economic losses and greatly increased food prices for the consumer. Pollinators, particularly bees, are in decline around the world. In some agricultural areas, farmers already have to import bees to ensure their crops are pollinated.

Flowers provide two food sources to to these insects with nectar providing carbohydrates and pollen providing both proteins and fats. These provide the full nutritional requirements for bees and many other insects. Some insects will require some different foods, especially when in the larval form and many of the larvae will feed on aphids such as green fly and so will help protect your other flowers.

To attract and support these insects we need to provide them with a variety of flowers stretching from early spring to late autumn. Many bedding plants that are sold are completely useless to insects as they produce no nectar or pollen or they are doubles (many petals hiding the nectar and pollen producing regions of the plants).

  • Always choose nectar producing single flowers. Happy-Single-Princess Single DahliaMany doubles, such as the Pompom Dahlia below, produce no nectar or it is impossible for many insects to get at it. Many plants in the garden centres have a bee friendly motif on them if they are friendly to insect life.
  • Never use pesticides when the garden is in flower.
  • Try and develop a patch of your garden into a wildflower garden. The easy but slower way to do this is to mow the ground in April and leave it until September when you mow it again and Pompom Double Dahlia leave the grass there for a week and shake it to loosen all the seeds before removing it.This is the easiest way to do a wildflower garden but could take 3 years to get properly established. You could, if you wished to speed up the process, do a seed harvest on local wildflowers a couple of time during the year to harvest seeds from flowers that appear at different stages during the year, and scarify the ground
    before spreading the seeds. Wildflower seed
    mixes available in the garden centres usually contain a large number of non native flowers and preferably are not to be used.
  • Bees can be encouraged into your garden by the building of a bee hotel. These can be purchased in many garden centres or can easily be built by drilling some different sized holes in a block of wood, or use some hollow stems of plants. Solitary bees are usually much smaller than bumble bees so you only need holes 3mm to 10mm in the wood.
To build a simple bee hotel
A terracotta plant pot (9 – 15cm in size)
Modelling clay
Plastic straws or bamboo canes

What to do

  1. Cut the straws or bamboo canes to a length that fits the depth of your pot.

  2. Tie the bundle of straws or canes together with a piece of string.

  3. Place some modelling clay in the bottom of the pot and stick the bundle of straws or canes in to the clay.

  4. Place the pot horizontally in your garden in a quiet place for the bees to move in.

Some Bee Hotels

Irish Pollinator Initiative -