It is said that one in three mouthfuls of the food we eat depends on pollinators. Fruit, nuts and seeds are particularly pollinator-dependent. Without pollinating insects, we would have no strawberries in the summer or apples in the autumn. They are also required for the production of our vegetable oils (rapeseed and sunflower) and, around the globe, the major crops of soybean, coffee and cotton. In addition, they play a vital role in supporting our ecosystems by pollinating wildflowers and trees across the landscape.
When most people think of pollinators, they usually imagine honey bees. In fact, although this species is used commercially, it is not the most efficient pollinator. Bumblebees do something honey bees don’t, a behaviour known as ‘buzz pollination’, which is most effective at dislodging pollen. Some flowers can only be pollinated in this way. Studies have shown that wild pollinators (which also include solitary bees, beetles, flies and other insects) are twice as effective as honey bees at increasing the yield of fruit and seed crops, so we should not be relying on commercial hives. Instead, if we are to maximise our food production, we need to provide habitats and features in the landscape for our wild pollinators, so they may in turn provide for us.
The highest scoring sites will have a greater proportion of ‘pollinator-friendly’ habitat (such as unimproved grassland or woodland edge); they will be in areas of Cornwall that are considered most important for our wild bees (including our coastline); and they will contain features that are particularly beneficial (such as sunny, exposed banks for nesting). They may also be in close proximity to crops that most require pollination, such as apple orchards. Low-scoring sites will include heavily-managed sites (e.g. farms) that may still contain some valuable habitats and features, but in a lower proportion compared to other sites.