A new survey project is helping the public to create habitats for the UK's threatened bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects.
Schools, families and community groups are being offered the chance to play a part in reversing the decline in the UK’s pollinating insect population by becoming scientists for a day.
Pollinators are vital for our economy: around 80 per cent of British plants are pollinated by insects and the process feeds our wildlife and provides much of the food we eat. The loss of pollinators could cost the UK around £430 million a year in lost crops alone.
We hope this will allow people to discover and help the pollinators in their local area, inspiring a new generation of nature lovers to enjoy and protect their local environments.
– Vanessa Barber
But human activities are affecting the total number of pollinating insects, the number of different types of pollinators and where they are found.
Creatures like bees, butterflies and beetles, just three of Britain’s 1,500 species of pollinating insects, are homeless and hungry, suffering from a lack of places to nest and feed.
Now the Polli:Nation survey project is encouraging the public to help turn round the future of the UK’s pollinators by making outdoor spaces into welcoming habitats for insects to live and breed in.
Created by Open Air Laboratories (OPAL), a nationwide initiative led by Imperial College London to protect local environments, the Polli:Nation survey will give people the know-how to assess their own outdoor space and understand how to improve it and attract more pollinators.
Vanessa Barber, OPAL Polli:Nation Project Officer, explains the process: "First you survey your outdoor space for pollinators and the habitat available to them. Then you use this information to make informed changes, by creating feeding, nesting or shelter habitat as required. Finally you re-survey your outdoor space to see how these changes have affected the number and variety of pollinators.
“We hope this will allow people to discover and help the pollinators in their local area, inspiring a new generation of nature lovers to enjoy and protect their local environments.”
Participants are urged to improve feeding habitats by filling open spaces with flowering plants and grasses, creating wildflower meadows or, in a smaller space, simply planting woody trees and shrubs.
When bugs and bees want to bed down for the night or seek shelter, features such as bee banks, bee and bug hotels and log piles, will all serve as good habitats for nesting and sheltering.
An early participant in the survey, Llanishen Fach Primary School in Wales, found very few pollinators in its initial survey and in response plans to create a wet meadow, a bee bank on a south facing slope, and an orchard too.
OPAL aims to inspire a new generation of nature lovers who will discover, enjoy and protect their local environments. OPAL created the survey in conjunction with Polli:Nation, a UK-wide project fostering a network of young conservationists, who it is hoped will turn their school grounds and local community spaces into diverse habitats full of pollinating insects and wildlife.
David Slawson, Director of OPAL, said, “Everyone is concerned that our bees, butterflies and other pollinators are struggling but often we don’t know how to help.
"This survey gives everyone - schools, families, Scout or Brownie groups - a fun way to survey their local patch, learn about and protect pollinating insects and their places they live, and become scientists for a day”.
The Polli:Nation project is funded by the Heritage Lottery fund and is led by Learning through Landscapes, a national charity which aims to ensure every child benefits from outdoor learning and play. The project has been developed by a consortium of concerned conservation organisations including OPAL Imperial College London, The Field Studies Council, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Bumblebee Conservation Trust and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
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Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
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