Planting for pollinators

By planting the right kind of plants in your garden, you can help pollinating insects

Imagine a dry, warm summer’s day in the National Botanic Garden of Wales. You’re in the Double Walled Garden, sitting on a beautifully curved bench, soaking in the sights, sounds and smells. What comes to mind? Bees busily bobbing in and out of openly inviting flowers heads? Beautifully patterned butterflies fluttering around? Hovering flies, with bodies mimicking the colour bands of bees, darting directly at plants that may be full of nectar.

It’s a lovely scene. But does it reflect your own garden, yard or balcony? Pollinating insects have declined dramatically across the Welsh countryside over the past 30 years, if not longer. It’s become so bad that the Welsh Government produced an Action Plan for Pollinators in 2013. In this they lay the blame on land-use intensification, habitat destruction and fragmentation, disease, the use of agro-chemicals, and climate change.

This has an impact of the surviving pockets of countryside. Pollinating insects help most wild plants to set seed (some are wind pollinated) and they are a vital for fruit and veg growers.

So what can you do to help?

Gardens are an increasingly important wildlife habitat in Wales, whether they be in towns and cities, as well as villages and isolated farmhouses. If you could make your garden into a larder for bees, hoverflies, butterflies and beetles, you will also help to build up wild populations of pollinating insects.

Our Pollinating Plants booklet will introduce you to ten of the most important plant families for pollinating insects in Wales.

Most plants are used by pollinating insects but by having a variety of flower shapes and sizes, which flower at different times of the year, you’re more likely to attract a wide variety of pollinating insects. Pollen provides protein for the growth of developing larvae and nectar provides fuel for flying and the means of making honey for some bees. Bees also need a varied diet to help their immune system.

Garden growers must also be aware that many plant cultivars are useless for pollinating insects – smells have been sacrificed for visible beauty and the insects cannot get to the nectar.