Key messages for gardeners from Paper One (pollinating insects)
The best strategy for gardeners wanting to support pollinating insects in gardens is to plant a mix of flowering plants from different countries and regions.
Emphasis should be given to plants native to the UK and the northern hemisphere, though exotic plants from the southern hemisphere can be used to extend the season (there are a greater proportion of exotic plants flowering later in the season compared to UK native and northern hemisphere plants) and provide nectar and pollen for some specific pollinators.
Regardless of plant origin (native or non-native), the more flowers a garden can offer throughout the year, the greater the number of bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects it will attract and support.
To help apply these principles, and choose pollinator-friendly plants for your garden, see our RHS Plants for Pollinators page.
Download interpretation bulletin one: Gardens as habitats for pollinators (1.3MB pdf) with more on the messages from the first results paper and how to apply this in the garden.
Read the scientific paper in full: Salisbury, A., Armitage, J., Bostock, H., Perry, J., Tatchell, M., Thompson, K. (2015). Enhancing gardens as habitats for flower-visiting aerial insects (pollinators): should we plant native or exotic species? Journal of Applied Ecology JPE 12499.
Key messages for gardeners from Paper Two (plant-dwelling invertebrates)
Findings on the abundance of invertebrates that are found on the plants, including those feeding on living plant material, on decomposing organic matter, and on other invertebrates, was published in Biodiversity and Conservation.
Plant a predominance of plants native to the UK.
Planting schemes that are based on plants originating from the Northern Hemisphere (near-natives) may support only marginally fewer (less than 10%) invertebrates in some functional groups (including herbivores and some predators) than UK native plant schemes. Plant schemes based on Southern Hemisphere (exotic) plants will still support a good number of invertebrates, albeit around 20% fewer than plants from the UK.
Regardless of plant origin, the more densely a plant scheme is planted or allowed to grow, the more invertebrates of all kinds (herbivores, predators, detritivores and omnivores) it will support.
Download interpretation bulletin two: Gardens as habitats for plant-dwelling invertebrates (1.4MB pdf).
RHS Plants for Bugs press release on invertebrates on the plants
RHS advice: Native and non-native plants for plant-dwelling invertebrates
Salisbury, A., Al-Beidh, S., Armitage, J., Bird, S., Bostock, H., Platoni, A., Tatchell, M, Thompson, K. and Perry, J. (2017). Enhancing gardens as habitats for plant-associated invertebrates: should we plant native or exotic species? Biodiversity and Conservation.
For more about life on the plots read Helen Bostock’s Plants for Bugs blog.