Gardd Fotaneg Genedlaethol CymruNational Botanic Garden of WalesNational Botanic Garden of Wales

Science

Abigail, Laura and Lucy, PhD researchers at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, need your help to find the best flowers for hungry pollinators.

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

Flower visiting insects, including bumblebees, honeybees, solitary bees and hoverflies are essential to global wellbeing.

The rapid decline of insect pollinators is a real cause for concern. Without a diverse range of pollinators, we’d miss out on tomatoes, cherries, apples, raspberries and strawberries, along with staples like coffee and chocolate. They pollinate the foods we love to eat!

One of the major causes of pollinator decline is the loss of flower-rich habitats that provide the nectar and pollen that insect pollinators need for food. For example, in the UK we have destroyed 97% of ancient wildflower meadows, which once provided a variety of flowering plants to feed hungry pollinators.

Growing pollinator-friendly plants in our gardens is one way to provide more food for pollinators – but which plants do they like best?

Plants for pollinators’ lists can be useful to help us choose the right plants, but they are generally not based on real scientific data and miss out important plants that support pollinators. Here at the National Botanic Garden of Wales we have both horticultural collections and a National Nature Reserve, with over 9000 different types of native and non-native flowering plants for our pollinators to choose from. This puts us in an excellent position to scientifically test which plants are the most important. We want to answer the following questions:

  • Which plants are pollinators using for food?
  • Which flowers in seed mixes would provide the best forage for a whole community of pollinators, throughout the year?
  • How can we apply this knowledge to contribute meaningfully to pollinator conservation, in our own backyard?

To see which plants pollinators have been visiting we will collect samples of pollen from their bodies. We extract, amplify and sequence the DNA in the pollen using DNA barcoding techniques. This allows us to discover exactly which plants are most important for pollinators and apply this information to develop pollinator-friendly seed mixes that we can all use in our gardens to protect pollinators.

The extraction, amplification and sequencing of the DNA costs £3000 for 100 samples and we need your help to allow us to sequence the pollen from 500 insects (a total of £15,000). By donating to this cause, you are making a direct contribution to the research and conservation of pollinators at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

We have three PhD researchers, based on site and working full-time that need your support to carry out this vital research:

Laura Jones: Investigating honeybee foraging using DNA barcoding.

Abigail Lowe: Investigating the value of gardens for providing floral resources to bumblebees, solitary bees and hoverflies using DNA barcoding.

Lucy Witter: Developing and testing pollinator-friendly seed mixes for gardens and urban green spaces.

To say thank you for your support when you donate:

£50 – Two free tickets to visit the Botanic Garden.

£100 – Four free tickets to visit the Botanic Garden.

£150 – A Stitching Botanical’s Pollinator Embroidery.

£250 – Bumblebee Walk and introduction to identification around the beautiful Botanic Garden and Waun Las National Nature Reserve with the Science Team.

£300 – Beekeeping Day in the Botanic Garden’s Apiary.

£400 – Day in the Science Lab learning about and having a go at DNA barcoding.