News story

Bees' Needs: Food and a home

Five simple actions you can take to help make our environment more friendly for bees, butterflies, moths and other insect pollinators.

Bumblebee feeding on a poppy flower

Did you know here are at least 1500 species of insect pollinators in the UK?

These are insects that help plants reproduce by carrying pollen from flower to flower as they feed. They include bumblebees, honey bees, solitary bees, hoverflies, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies and moths.

They all have complex life cycles and specific needs. They all need pollen and nectar for food and a home for shelter. They are all vital for pollinating our gardens, wild plants as well as our crops.

Our advice to families, gardeners, farmers, developers, land owners and local authorities is simple:

  1. grow more flowers, shrubs and trees
  2. let your garden grow wild
  3. cut grass less often
  4. don’t disturb insect nests and hibernation spots
  5. think carefully about whether to use pesticides

Following these 5 steps we can can all help give bees and pollinators the food and shelter they need to survive.

Other ways to get involved

In a recent YouGov poll, almost a quarter of English adults (24%) said their household had planted pollinator-friendly plants in gardens or window boxes to encourage pollination. A fifth had let areas of their garden grow wild to give bees enough nectar and pollen.

You can also get involved in helping our pollinators by:

Following Bees’ Needs week (9 to 17 July) on Twitter. Search for #BeesNeeds to find out more about the campaign and tweet your pollinator questions to charities, businesses and bee experts.

Build a bee hotel to provide homes for some of the 260 species of solitary bee that nest in hollow plant stems, holes in cliffs and crumbling buildings—find out how in our video tutorial:

Build a bee hotel

Join a number of events being held by partners across the country for Bees’ Needs week, like the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Bumblebee Safari in Somerset; the first Chester Bee Summit at Chester Zoo; or join the Wildlife Trusts’ Butterfly Walk at Trench Wood in Worcestershire. There are hundreds of pollinator-friendly events are taking place across the UK all week.

Pollinators in numbers

  • 1500 species of insects pollinate plants in the UK, including bumble bees, honey bees, solitary bees, hoverflies, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies and moths
  • 25 species of bumble bee, 260 species of solitary bee, 1 honey bee species and hundreds of types of hoverflies, butterflies and moths live in the UK
  • 70 of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of food worldwide are pollinated by bees
  • £600m is the estimated value of insect pollination to crops due to increases in yield and quality of seeds and fruit
  • 6.5kg of ‘Whitehall Honey’ produced by the first yield from Defra’s beehives in 2015
  • 5 simple actions the UK public can take to protect our vital pollinators: grow more flowers, shrubs and trees; leave patches of land to grow wild; cut grass less often; don’t disturb insect nests and hibernation spots; and think carefully about using pesticides.

For more information call Defra press office on 020 8026 3663 or out of hours on 0345 051 8486.

Published 8 July 2016