What's new in science: pollinator protection


By Beth Harris, Science and Tech Editor

Pollinators are critical to the success of UK agriculture however their numbers are significantly declining, thus pollinator protection strategies are at the forefront of ecological research.

Keeping hedgerows intact and planting areas of wildflowers are possible solutions and are employed by some UK farmers to provide additional sources of pollen and nectar to pollinators such as bees. However, a recent study from the University of Bristol has revealed that it is in fact early spring and late summer, when wildflowers are not in bloom, that pollinators experience nectar deficit on UK farmland.

Bee on lavender
Photo by Jenna Lee / Unsplash

The study has emphasized the importance of the timing of nectar availability. Without a constant supply of nectar throughout the year, pollinator health and survival is at risk. "If a bumblebee queen comes out of hibernation in March and finds nothing to eat, it doesn’t matter how much nectar there is in summer, because she won’t be alive," explained Jane Memmott, principal investigator.

The study has important applications for pollinator protection. Identification of when gaps in nectar and pollen availability occur in the UK will allow measures to be put in place that ensures there is a more consistent supply, increasing the survival rate of important pollinators such as bees.

Photo by Henry Be / Unsplash

"Early-flowering plants like willows and dandelions, or late-flowering red clover and ivy could all help to fill the hungry gaps if we allow them to survive and flower on farmland," commented Tom Timberlake, the lead author.

By placing a greater emphasis on the timing of resource availability we face a better chance of meeting supply with pollinator demand.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Sara Kurfeß

Fancy reporting Bristol research for us? Let us know!