Gardeners Can Help Protect Pollinating Insects Over Winter

Friday 12 September 2014

The Royal Horticultural Society and The Wildlife Trusts are urging people to get involved in Wild About Gardens Week, 15 – 21 September 2014

As part of Wild About Gardens Week (15 – 21 September) the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and The Wildlife Trusts (TWT) are urging people to do more to support the UK’s vital pollinators over the winter months.

There is a lot of information and advice already available on how gardeners can help support and protect pollinating insects during the spring and summer months, when they are most active, but less on how they can be protected during winter.

With this in mind, the RHS and TWT have joined forces to provide people with a winter-survival guide for the UKs 1,500 species of pollinating insects.

The RHS and TWT are asking gardeners to provide much-needed places in which pollinators can spend winter, and to plan their garden for the year ahead in an effort to offer vital pollen- and nectar-rich food.

Andrew Salisbury, RHS Senior Entomologist, said: “Pollinators and other invertebrates need sheltered places to spend the cold winter months. By being a little less tidy, particularly around the base of hedges and in garden borders, and by creating bug hotels and log piles we can provide much-needed overwintering sites. This will also give pollinators in the garden a head start in spring.”

During this year’s Wild About Gardens Week the two organisations are encouraging everyone with access to an outside space to carry out at least one of the following activities:

Make an insect hotel or overwintering habitat – Insect hotels provide shelter and overwintering habitats for many pollinators. As part of WAG Week TWT and RHS are running a ‘build a bug hotel’ competition encouraging gardeners, schools and community groups to get building and share photographs of their fantastic projects to inspire others to get involved. Find more details about the competition and how to create a bug hotel at (entries close on 31 October 2014).

Create log piles – Some pollinating insects nest or overwinter in dead wood and many uncommon insects such as stag beetle rely on it for a large part of their life cycle. Where possible, half-bury some logs, leave dead wood where it falls, and keep tree stumps in place.

Cut back on the cutting back – Instead of cutting flower borders back, neat and tidy, in late autumn, leave the dead stems all winter until early spring. The hollow stems of perennial plants provide shelter for overwintering insects.

Let your lawn grow – Leave a long patch over winter before cutting it back when you resume mowing in early spring and it will help many creatures hibernate.

Choose wildlife-friendly plants – Ensure your garden contains a wide range of plants, trees and shrubs that produce pollen and nectar resources throughout the year. Autumn and winter nectar plants to consider include: Spanish traveller’s joy (Clematis cirrhosa), winter-flowering crocus (Crocus species), ivy (Hedera helix), Purpus honeysuckle (Lonicera × purpusii), Michaelmas daisy (Aster), perennial sunflower (Helianthus × laetiflorus), winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) and sweet box (Sarcococca confusa).

Do you need to spray? – Think responsibly about using pesticides and be considerate to dandelions and nettles, which are crucial for many pollinators.

As a result of the way the landscape has changed over recent decades, not all insect pollinators can readily find the food and shelter they need. A recently published study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature highlighted that 46% of European bumblebee species are in decline, with 24% at risk of extinction; and we have already lost 23 bee and flower-visiting wasp species in Britain.

Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Landscape, said: “Our pollinating insects need a helping hand and we hope to see many people offer them one with inspired and creative shelters in our bug hotel competition. The provision of nectar-rich flowers combined with equal effort to restore and create ‘home’ habitats – including food plants for caterpillars and undisturbed ground for hibernating bees – is a winning combination.

“Although the importance of bees is now widely recognised, let’s also give credit to and raise awareness of our lesser-known pollinators, including peacock butterfly, hummingbird hawk moth and marmalade hoverfly. Ultimately, it’s looking after the ‘small stuff’ which helps to create a healthier bigger picture for wildlife and the natural environment. Collectively, our gardens make up the biggest nature reserve in the UK. Let’s make it the biggest and best it can be.”

A range of wildlife gardening talks and events, including bioblitzes, mini-beast hunts, bug hotel building, moth trapping and more, will be held at The Wildlife Trusts’ visitor centres. The events are designed to help educate the public on the simple steps they can take to help support pollinators through winter. The RHS is also encouraging its 3,300 community gardening groups, 17,250 schools, 145 Partner Gardens and the public to hold wildlife gardening events during the week.
Groups and individuals can log events on the Wild About Gardens Week website:  

Celebrity Gardener and wildlife enthusiast David Domoney said: “There are 15 million gardens in the UK, covering an area of approximately 270,000 hectares. If everyone in the country created a wildlife haven in their garden during Wild About Gardens Week, it could make an incredible difference and in time even save an important species from extinction. Insect activity is vital for our gardens ecosystems so by helping them they will also help you.”

TWT and RHS will be offering free advice and resources via the website:


Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Hattie Sherwood in the RHS Press Office on 020 7821 3126 or email or Anna Guthrie, Media & PR Manager, The Wildlife Trusts on 07887 754659 or email  

Wild About Gardens Week #wildaboutgardens
An annual celebration of wildlife gardening, Wild About Gardens Week provides a focus to encourage people to use their gardens and take action to help support wildlife. Competition entries must be submitted in photograph format through the Wild About Gardens Week website and Facebook page. For wildlife-gardening ideas and to enter the competition, visit

From September, this website will offer information about garden pollinators, ideas to help them and other wildlife in the garden, and a 16-page A5 activity booklet. Printed copies of the booklet will also accompany a free seed packet giveaway. The seed packets contain a 5g mix that can be sown in autumn, allowing attendees to take action for pollinators immediately after an event by planting early-blooming flowers as a nectar source for emerging insects. The mix includes yarrow, nettle-leaved bellflower, autumn hawkbit, ox-eye daisy, musk mallow, meadow buttercup, yellow rattle, red campion and devil’s bit scabious.

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood for the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture. We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, our flagship garden, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity.

Today the RHS is committed to providing a voice for all gardeners. We are driven by a simple love of plants and a belief that gardeners make the world a better place. 210 years on we continue to safeguard and advance the science, art and practice of horticulture, creating displays that inspire people to garden. In all aspects of our work we help gardeners develop by sharing our knowledge of plants, gardens and the environment.

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

About The Wildlife Trusts
There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK. All are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone. We have more than 800,000 members including 150,000 members of our junior branch Wildlife Watch. Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas. We manage around 2,300 nature reserves and every year we advise thousands of landowners and organisations on how to manage their land for wildlife. We also run marine-conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife. Every year we work with thousands of schools, and our nature reserves and visitor centres receive millions of visitors. Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas.  

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About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262