2 Feb 2018

Plants for pollinators – creating pollinator friendly seed mixes for gardens and urban green spaces

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

When choosing the best plants for pollinators, we often refer to recommendation lists. Whilst these are useful, they are generally not based on scientific data. In order to ensure that the most beneficial plants are used for pollinator conservation, there is a need to create a scientifically verified list of the best plants for pollinators. My project will use scientific evidence to create this list and use it to develop pollinator friendly seed mixes for use in gardens across the UK.

My PhD is funded by KESS2 and registered with Aberystwyth University, where I graduated in 2015 with a first class degree in Zoology. Since then, I have volunteered for a number of wildlife organisations  and worked as a graduate trainee for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in Kent.

Whilst at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, I was supervised by Dr Nikki Gammans; project manager of the short-haired bumblebee reintroduction project.  I was tasked with increasing flower rich diversity for bumblebees and wild pollinators. I surveyed wildflowers in sites across my project area to find out which floral resources were available for pollinators throughout the season and how this could be improved. Every sunny day (which is most days in Kent!) I was out in the field monitoring bumblebee numbers and surveying wildflowers. This has really helped me to improve my bumblebee and wildflower identification. Working with farmers, landowners and local authorities; we provided advice and habitat management on these sites – an area of over 200ha. My role also included training new volunteers in bumblebee identification and organising events for the local community to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators.

After my adventures in Kent, I am delighted to be back in Wales and based full time at the Botanic Garden to carry out this important research. My project will be made up of three main parts:

  1. Conducting a systematic review of scientific studies on the best plants for wild pollinators, including the research being carried out by PhD students Laura Jones and Abigail Lowe here at the Botanic Garden. This will be compiled into an open access list of the best plants for pollinators and used to develop pollinator friendly seed mixes, specific to each pollinator group.
  2. Using this information, along with horticultural and plant trait data to develop experimental seed mixes for pollinators. These will be developed to benefit all of our pollinators and be grown in gardens across the UK.
  3. I will be testing both my experimental seed mixes and commercially available seed mixes here at the Botanic Garden. Hopefully you’ll be able to spot one of my plots this summer, which I’m planning to put by the bandstand. I’m looking forward to finding out what our pollinators and visitors think of the different seed mixes later in the season!

Keep up to date with my progress by following my blog posts or look out for me in the Garden!

If you would like to support this work and other projects looking at providing food for our pollinators: please visit our JustGiving, Help Save Our Pollinators!