Do you know who pollinates our food?
There are thousands of pollinating insects in Sweden, like butterflies, bumblebees, solitary bees, honeybees, flies and beetles. All of them important to pollinate our food, our cultivated land and wild nature.
Here in SURR you can meet some of them in close-up portraits by photographer Lena Granefelt.
The pictures are also exhibited in five different places around Sweden during the annual Pollination Week, from Kivik in the south to Skellefteå in the north.
5 ways to help the pollinators
- plant bee friendly flowers, herbs, bushes and trees that flower from early spring to late autumn.
- Create a traditional meadow with local flowers or just let the grass grow and see what comes up!
- Bless the mess in your garden – save some dead wood, sticks and leaves – they are the home of many species.
- Save some weed like dandelion, nettles and thistles for the pollinating insects to collect food from.
- Provide homes for bees and insects by drilling holes in wood stumps and building bee hotels. Don’t forget to create sandy, open environments for the many bees that nest in the ground.
is one of our most common bumblebees. It has a short tongue and is a so-called generalist, which means that it collects its food from many different plants.
The poppy flower is a favourite because its pollen is easily accessible.
is one of the butterfly species that can be seen early in the spring. That is because it hibernates as a fully developed butterfly like a number of other early butterflies, such as Aglais urticae and Gonepteryx rhamni, the butterflies you see early in the spring hatched already last autumn.
The larvae of Inachis io and Aglais urticae feed only on nettles. If you want to enjoy their splendour, you should save a patch of nettles in a sunny spot close by.
is one of the species of bumblebees that has declined the most since the 1940s and today it is relatively uncommon. From having been common in the agricultural landscape it is today mainly found in flower rich parks and gardens.
Bombus hortorum belongs to the long-tongued species that is specialized on plants with deep flowers. Here it is visiting Anthyllis vulneraria, one of the most popular flowers among bumblebees.
are imitating wasps to avoid being eaten by other animals. For an attentive person it is easy to see the difference – hoverflies only have two wings while the wasp has four. This hoverfly belongs to the aphid-eating family. The adult flies are vegetarians, but the larvae are predators who only eat aphids.
By supporting hoverflies in the landscape you get a chemical free pest control and pollination in one.
belongs to the long-tongued species – that are declining. It is dependent on flowers with a deep nectarium, like clover and lavender. The Bombus sylvarum is still relatively common in many places in the country.
has decreased sharply since the 1940s but can still be seen on several places in the country. The species belongs to the long-tongued bumblebees and is especially good at reaching nectar in plants with deep flowers.
On Gotland there is an orange colored Bombus pascourum called Bombus pascuorum gotlandicus.
is a solitary bee that belongs to the Megachilidae. It collects pollen on the stomach instead of on the legs as honey bees and bumblebees do. Osmia bicornis does so because it lives in hollow straws or tubular holes made by insects in dead wood, where the pollen otherwise would have been rubbed of.
Osmia bicornis is one of the species that often is nesting in bee hotels. In Germany Osmia bicornis is commercially managed to support pollination.
is a species that actually is increasing in the landscape and it has become more common during the last decades. As the Swedish name implies the larva feeds on different grasses. Here is a butterfly on Leucanthemum vulgare, a plant that is much liked by butterflies due to its very open and accessible flowers.
belongs to the hoverflies and is a very keen flower visitor and pollinator. Here it is visiting Knautia arvensis.
The larvae develop in an anaerobic environment in wet decomposing materials, preferably in ditches or in the border of wetlands. Having a wild garden pond makes it thrive. To be able to live in wetlands and ponds they have developed a long extension tube in their abdomen, through which they can breathe. In English they are called rat-tailed maggot.
The important Salix trees
Commonly we say that the Salix tree is the breakfast for life. This because it is one of the first plants that blossom in the spring right when honey bees, solitary bees, bumblebees and other pollinating insects are becoming active after winter.
is still quite common but has decreased in the landscape due to the effective control of field weeds that the butterfly larvae feed on.
To enjoy this beautiful butterfly, it might be worth sacrificing a couple of cabbage plants in the garden for the larvae to feed on.
is a forgotten pollination hero – some studies have shown that Calliphoridae species are better pollinators than for example some butterflies. Many plants with flowers having a spicier scent, like hawthorn, rowan, Swedish whitebeam and spiraea seem to appeal to these shiny scavengers.
is an eager flower visitor and valuable pollinator.
The larvae develop in decomposed trees or anthills. To be able to enjoy these gems you should allow some parts of your garden to become wilder and save old tree trunks. Here you find it climbing on Eryngium maritimum.
is one of our largest Heliconiinae butterflies and has got its Swedish name from the shiny spots on the underside of the hind wings. The species has decreased.
The larvae that feed on leaves of different violets have been effected by the decrease of flowers in the landscape
Bumblebees are also bees
Bumblebees are also bees. Bumblebees belong to the large family Apidae. In Sweden we have about 300 species of bees. The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is one of these species while there are several hundreds of solitary bee species. The bumblebees consist of about 40 species. The SLU Swedish Species Information Centre lists 1/3 of all Swedish wild bee species as threatened and 1/5 of the butterflies as vulnerable or near threatened.
Here is a Bombus terrestris on a Borago officinalis and it has collected pollen on its hind legs. Pollen is the protein for the insects while nectar is the carbohydrates that give them the energy.
blooms during the period in the spring when the bumblebee queens start to build their colonies and the flowers contribute to its development. To secure the supply of food even after the flowering of the fruit trees we need to make sure that there are other flowering plants nearby during the rest of the season.
are dependent on pollinating insects to get plenty and well-developed fruits. Without pollinators the harvest will decrease.
When a maple tree blooms you can hear the buzz from all the insects visiting its flowers when you stand beneath it. Spring flowering maples are an appreciated source of food for many pollinating insects.
Some other important trees which offer nectar and pollen are hazel, willow, linden, elderflower, hawthorn, bird cherry, alder and a variety of fruit trees.
Many medicinal and herb plants that are popular in gardens – like Hyssopus officinalis, Lavandula angustifolia, Origanum vulgare and Salvia officinalis – are very good pollen and nectar plants. These plants suite the long-tongued bumblebees very well.
is common in the southern and middle parts of the country. It Is loved by many pollinators, especially the butterflies.
Local flower seeds
Domestic plants are adapted to our climate. They can survive our long winters and dry summers better than plants from other countries with other climatic conditions.
Photo from the fields of the seed producing company Pratensis in the county of Småland. They have focused their production on local seeds of plants that are natural on the classic Swedish meadow, which even support our local insects.
as Centaurea cyanus, Knautia arvensis, Leucanthemum vulgare, Leontodon hispidus and Agrostemma githago belong on the Swedish meadow.
The honey bee
lives in colonies with 10 000 to 60 000 individuals, and it is our smallest domesticated animal. The honey bee is kept because its honey producing abilities and for being an effective pollinator. Here a honey bee is visiting a currant bush.
Sweden has lost more than 90 percent of its meadows since agriculture became industrialised. To create a meadow with a high flower diversity or to “let the lawn grow” are important actions to support the pollinating insects.
has a very closed flower and the bumblebee on the picture needs to put a lot of effort into opening the petals. This slightly prude posture is due to the fact that it has developed a very close relationship with some flies belonging to the genus Chiastocheta.
These flies are entirely dependent on the Trollius europaeus and because of that also the most important pollinators of this plant. The adult flies spend most of their life inside the flowers.