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What are pollinators?

For pollination to happen we need a pollinator, this could be the wind but often it is an animal. The pollinator crawls over flowers picking up the dusty sticky pollen on their travels and putting it down on the next plant it comes to. The movement of pollen from one plant to another allows fertilization to happen. Fertilization causes plants to make fruit and seeds which can then grow into other plants just like the original parent plant. Without pollination, plants cannot reproduce.

Wild pollinators include bumblebees and other bees, butterflies and moths, flies, and other insects such as beetles and wasps. Domestic honeybees are also important pollinators.

Why is pollination important?

Pollination is a crucial element of Scotland’s natural environment. It’s essential for many of the healthy ecosystems and beautiful landscapes we enjoy, and it is vital for the production of many agricultural crops. It is thought that one of every three mouthfuls of our food depends on insect pollinators. Insect pollinators contribute around £43 million to the Scottish economy and 80% of our wildflowers rely on insect pollination.

Why are pollinators in trouble?

Scotland’s bumble bees, solitary bees, honey bees and hoverflies are serious trouble. Half of our bumblebee species are in decline, three species are in trouble, whilst another seven bumblebee species have declined by more than 50% in the last 25 years.

Pollinators are at risk from a range of threats:

  • Our changing climate impacts pollinators in several ways, from altering species distribution to extreme weather events;
  • Habitat fragmentation and degradation - an increase in urban areas, and the conversion of semi-natural flower-rich habitats to agriculture have reduced the food and nesting opportunities available to pollinators;
  • Pesticide use – intended for the ‘troublesome’ insects but killing the beneficial ones too;
  • Diseases – the UK's honeybees are vulnerable to diseases brought into the country by colonies imported from America and Europe.
Main types of Pollinator

UK pollinators include the honey bee, bumble bees, solitary bees, wasps, hoverflies, other flies, beetles, butterflies and moths. By far the most important groups of wild pollinators in Scotland are bees and hoverflies.

More information on the different types of pollinators in Scotland, their habitats and food plants can be found in our Pollinators Leaflet and various information sheets on the schools and groups resources pages.