Nectar is an important energy resource for pollinating insects such as bees. In the UK, only four plants produce half of all nectar provisions: heather flower, bell heather, white clover and swamp thistle. This was shown in a recent study conducted by the University of Bristol in cooperation with the NERC Center for Ecology & Hydrology in Lancaster as well as Fera Science, Ltd., located near York, England. The detailed results of this joint nectar study were published in the February edition of “Nature”.
During the study, these researchers examined the 270 most common plant species deemed to be attractive for pollinators in England and Wales. Scientists collected nectar samples from ten blossoms of each plant species and measured the nectar’s sugar concentration and calculated how much sugar a single blossom could produce during a single day.
Prior to this, quantitative and scientifically sound data about the national availability of blossom nectar were not available for the UK; this knowledge gap led the researchers to develop their research cooperation. What they discovered is that certain types of grassland offer the best habitat for pollinators, who will find the greatest amount of nectar from the most diverse plants per unit area. In contrast, agricultural land often does not provide pollinators with sufficient food resources.
The results of this study confirm Bayer’s long-standing commitment to pollinator health. With targeted measures, Bayer will continue to enhance landscapes for bees and other pollinators and to provide additional food and habitat. At Orchard Farm – one of Bayer's field stations – near Cambridge, England, Bayer researchers test and develop such measures: “We are trying out different ways to optimize our less productive land use for bees and other pollinating insects, so that they can stay healthy and help secure productivity in the long term,” says Alice Johnston. She is the Application and Stewardship Coordinator and is involved in the Integrated Farm Management at Orchard Farm.
The biodiversity of pollinators is directly dependent on the availability of food resources – a fact that has been also reported by researchers in “Nature” magazine. The researchers found evidence that from 1930 to 1970 the supply of nectar decreased significantly – and thereby the biodiversity of pollinators decreased. Since 1987, nectar resources have been stabilizing again, and in the following years it even rose – and so did the diversity of pollinating species in the area. Improving the agricultural basis of plant species can contribute significantly to the maintenance of pollinator biodiversity and the promotion of their health.
You can read the complete study in the Nature article „Historical nectar assessment reveals the fall and rise of floral recourses in Britain.“
In our BEENOW “Sustainable Agriculture in Practice”, learn more about Bayer’s efforts to assist pollinators.