by James Aldrin
As home gardeners, we’re always looking for ways to make our yards and gardens more welcoming to the beneficial insects that call them home. One essential group of beneficial garden visitors are pollinators, and a recent study from Lund University in Sweden has shown that individual efforts to accommodate these insects can make a significant impact.
It’s no secret that pollinators play a vital role in our ecosystems and food supply. However, many species of these hardworking insects are endangered or in decline. In response, The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation launched the ‘Operation: Save the Bees’ campaign in 2018. The initiative aimed to involve the public in creating pollinator-friendly environments in their private gardens by planting meadows, growing flowers, or setting up bee hotels. Approximately 11,000 Swedes joined the effort, and Lund University researchers evaluated the outcomes.
Anna Persson, a researcher at Lund University and part of the study team, explained their objectives: “We wanted to investigate measures that the public themselves chose to implement in their garden, and how these can be the most efficient.”
The study revealed that the most significant positive effect on pollinator populations occurred in gardens featuring meadows with a high number of flowering species. Older and larger flower plantings were also more beneficial, while bee hotels proved more attractive to pollinators when situated in flower-rich gardens, aged, and featuring nest holes with a maximum diameter of one centimeter.
“This study demonstrates that flower-rich private gardens provide integral habitat for wild pollinators and that citizen science programs can provide a tool for implementing and evaluating conservation practices.”
Persson believes the study’s findings can help guide those who wish to contribute to pollinator conservation efforts: “For example, we can show that it will pay off to create large and species-rich meadows and flower plantings, and that it is important not to give up after a few years because the measures improve over time. This should be emphasized in future campaigns.”
With gardens covering nearly 30 percent of urban and suburban land, garden owners have considerable potential to contribute to local biodiversity. However, as Persson stresses, it’s crucial to invest in the right measures: “Our results can be used when giving advice on what actually makes a difference.”
The study employed citizen science, with 3,758 participants reporting their garden activities and observed insect populations. Although this approach introduced some uncertainty, the sheer number of responses lends confidence to the results.
Karin Lexén, Secretary General of The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, expressed enthusiasm for the campaign’s success and the value of citizen science: “The situation for bees and other pollinators shows that measures to help them are important. It’s great that the campaign has attracted so much attention, and that citizen science can continue to contribute to new knowledge.”
This research demonstrates that individual efforts to support pollinators in our gardens can truly make a difference. So, let’s continue cultivating our green spaces to provide a hospitable haven for these essential beneficial insects.