Why pollinating insects are important and how gardeners can help …

I seem to be in a regular Bee-Thing at the moment – this is my 3rd successive bee-post :-). This piece, from the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society, is very helpful …

Bee solitary-hairy-footed-007Flying insects such as bees and hoverflies which visit flowers for their nectar and pollen perform a vitally important pollination service. Pollination is where the pollen from one flower is transferred to another flower, bringing about fertilisation. Some flowering plants are pollinated by the wind but the majority rely on this service from insects and without it plants would fail to produce seed and, in some cases, fruit.

Our wild bees and other pollinators are considered to be in decline. By planting nectar and pollen rich flowers over a long season, gardeners can help reduce this trend. In return, an abundance of pollinators will ensure garden plants continue to reproduce through seed and that many fruit and vegetable crops such as apples, strawberries and tomatoes successfully set fruit.

The National Pollinator Strategy (England), launched in Nov 2014, encourages gardeners to choose plants that provide resources for pollinators and endorses the RHS Perfect for Pollinators plant lists. The RHS is committed to helping to deliver the aims of the strategy and safeguard our bees and other pollinators for the future.

How to attract and support pollinating insects
• Aim to have plants that are attractive to pollinating insects in flower from early spring to late autumn. Winter flowering plants can also be of benefit.
• Grow garden plants with flowers that attract pollinating insects.
• Avoid plants with double or multi-petalled flowers. Such flowers may lack nectar and pollen, or insects may have difficulty in gaining access.
• Never use pesticides on plants when they are in flower.
• Where appropriate, British wildflowers can be an attractive addition to planting schemes and may help support a wider range of pollinating insects.
• Observe the plants in your garden. If you know of plants with blooms that regularly attract insects, let us know.

If you are able, encourage bees by keeping honeybees yourself or allowing a beekeeper to place hives in your garden. Many beekeepers are happy to do this, contact your local branch of the Beekeepers Association.

Nest boxes containing cardboard tubes or hollow plant stems, or holes drilled in blocks of wood will provide nest sites for some species of solitary bees. You can buy these sorts of nests from garden centres or you make your own. The holes/tubes should be in a mixture of sizes with a diameter of 2 – 8mm / (116 – 516 in).

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