Wildflower meadow

Habitats for pollinators

Habitat loss is one of the biggest causes of bee decline. Like us, bees need food, shelter and water if they are to thrive.
  Published:  17 Aug 2017    |      2 minute read

Bee populations are under severe stress. Since the Second World War, we’ve lost 97% of our wildflower meadows, a vital habitat which pollinators depend on for food and shelter.

Wildflowers by woodland edge
Wildflowers by woodland edge
Credit: Thinkstock

Protecting pollinators - a role for everyone

Thanks to Friends of the Earth and others, the government launched a National Pollinator Strategy which sets out the role of both national and local government in protecting pollinators. But we need urgent action to help populations of pollinating insects recover and flourish.

Businesses can play an important role too. For example, retailers like garden centres have banned bee-harming neonicotinoids from their garden plants, and some farmers are growing oilseed rape and wheat without these pesticides.

As individuals, we can also do our bit, including creating wildlife habitats in the spaces where we live. Find out how you encourage nature in your neighbourhood with support from a postcode gardener in our 10 x Greener project.

Habitat protection

First and most important is to protect existing natural habitats. This is key because once we destroy a complex, established ecosystem, it can be difficult or impossible to recreate what was there before.

If you're involved in making decisions about land management, for example working for a council, find out more in Helping Pollinators Locally, a guide from Friends of the Earth and Buglife.

Imagine if every garden, park and school grounds had bee-friendly flowers, and we grew wild flowers on our roundabouts and road verges; our towns and cities could become huge nature reserves for pollinators.

Bee expert, Prof Dave Goulson

Next comes restoration of existing areas to encourage plants to re-establish themselves. If grassland or hedges are cut too often or too hard they lose their value for bees (and countless other valuable bugs too). Trees and shrubs, verges and parks need to be allowed to flower and fruit. Bees need the pollen and nectar that flowers provide, while birds need the seeds.

But more than that. Bees need to survive the winter and safe spaces to rear the next generation. Leaving rough uncut areas in parks or around hedgerow bottoms may not appeal to the tidy-minded, but the bees would prefer us to leave well alone.

Reducing grass cutting is a change that councils can quickly introduce that helps bees, saves them money, and is strongly supported by the public.

Habitat creation

Last but not least comes the creation of new habitat. Here every little does help, and the more we scale up our action, the more bees and other pollinating insects will benefit.

And not only insects. Higher quality green spaces bring us closer to nature. We know that our mental and physical health and well-being improve the more we are exposed to nature in our everyday lives – it's a win win.