The unsung heroes in the world of pollination


Pollination is vital process that maintains natural and man-made ecosystems through symbiotic relationships between fauna and flora. Many species of plants require this relationship to transport pollen to continue its cycle and without it the ecosystem would collapse. The UK roughly has 1500 species of insect pollinators however the main pollinator which has been spoken about countless of times on the news, in films and online is the Apis AKA the Bee. The Honeybee habitats in hives however they consume pollen and nectar from flowering plants and the pollen is transported via their bodies. This makes them extremely effective as well as being abundant is why they are recognised as one of the best pollinators in the world.

The National Pollinator Strategy: for bees and other pollinators in England by the Department for Environmental Food & Rural affairs advises that pollinators mainly face pressure from habitat loss, pesticides and climate change. Member states in April 2018 have voted for an almost complete ban of neonicotinoid insecticides across the EU. This scientific study has proved that there is a link between the use of this pesticide and a decline in pollinators who have relationships with maize, oats, wheat, oil seed rape etc.

Other pollinators are often neglected because they are overlooked as they are not studied as extensively as the bee. Three other pollinators worth noting are:

Swallowtail Butterfly

The Swallowtail butterfly is Britain’s largest with a wing span up to 9 cm long. They have distinct bright colours on their wings to advertise and deter predators by showing that they may be poisonous. Specific species of swallowtail also taste bad to birds or emit toxins that they absorb from plants. They breed mainly in marshes and open fens which support extensive growth of plants in the Apiaceae family such as dill, fennel and parsley. Butterflies are not as efficient as bees at pollination however they are very active during the day and can identify plants which are red which bees are unable to see and therefore unlikely to pollinate.


Hawk-moths are generally nocturnal and belong to the same order as butterflies called Lepidoptera. They are highly sensitive to particular scents making them very effective navigators able to detect flowers from a long distance. Hawk-moths prefer pales flowers as they are easily identifiable at night with a sweet odour and a long corolla tube. This is a pollination syndrome known as sphingophily which are flower traits which have evolved from pollen vectors. They quite often can be found on woodland, chalk downs and meadows.

Drone Fly

Drone flies are effective pollinators due to their hairy bodies and can be the highest dominating pollinators of key crops such as coffee, chocolate and bananas. The drone fly mimics a bee’s biological behaviour and their bodies can also have visual traits such as striping like a honeybee. Drone flies visit a variety of flowering plants through most seasons making them very close in their effectiveness as bees.  

The number of overall pollinators is declining, and It is vital to understand who they are to provide sustainable ecosystems for them the thrive in by both increasing the population of both mayor and minor pollinators as well as the species of flora they have symbiotic relationships with.

Images from Wikimedia & BBC

By Earth Restoration Service Blog Writer Bianca Fogah