What are pollinators?
Pollinators are animals that transfer pollen from the anthers to the stigma of a flower,enabling the flower to set seed and fruit (fertilisation) and, through cross fertilisation,they play an important role in maintaining plant diversity. Staple crops that provide the vast majority of our foods are wind or self pollinated.However, pollinators play a key role in the production of many commercial crops , like orchard fruits,soft fruits and vegetables that provide us with vital nutrients (e.g.vitamins) and add variety to our diets.. Pollinators are also important to the reproduction of many wild plants and are therefore key to maintaining a healthy and bio-diverse environment.
Globally, many species including insects, birds, bats, lizards and other animals are responsible for pollination.
Pollinators are an essential component of England’s agriculture and the diversity of its animal and plant life. Many of our agricultural and horticultural crops(such as oilseed rape, orchard fruit, soft fruit and field beans) rely, at least in part,on visits by insect pollinators (bumble bees, honey bees, solitary bees, butterflies, moths, flies,beetles, hoverflies) to produce seeds and fruits. They also contribute to the diversity of Wild plant species, habitats and wildlife in England, as well as its resilience and natural beauty.
A very broad range of wild and managed insect species are responsible for pollination.
Some of the bee species found on the airfield (click to enlarge image)
The UK has 24 wild Bumblebee species and about 230 solitary bee species (these differ from bumblebees and the honeybees by not forming colonies). Bees are just some of the many wild pollinating insect species in the UK, which also include moths, butterflies,flies and wasps.
(click to enlarge image)
The well known ‘managed’ pollinator species is the honey bee. Other managed species also include bumble bees.Sub-species of bumblebee which are not native to the UK (Bombus terrestris terrestris and Bombus terrestris dalmatinus) are used here under licence (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) in commercial glasshouses and polytunnels for pollination of crops such as tomatoes. Under the terms of the licence,they are kept in glasshouses and polytunnels and not released into the wild. Insects are pollinators of 80% of all plant species in Europe, including most fruits, many vegetables and some biofuel crops.
The Current estimates of the economic value of pollination services in the UK
are in the order of hundreds of £millions, however these estimates rely heavily on incomplete scientific information linking pollinator services and productivity impacts. Economic impacts may vary according to geographical, climatic
conditions, the intensity of land use etc. Pollinators also provide wider functions in
maintaining our natural ecosystems and have a cultural and social value which needs to be recognised.
Pollination by insects is thought to be the main reproductive mechanism in 78% of temperate flowering plants and is essential to maintaining plant genetic diversity,wider biodiversity, providing food, shelter and other resources to mammals, birds and other insects.
(click image to enlarge)
Copyright- Nick Hollands