The latest newsletter from Pollinating London Together

Over the past year, Pollinating London Together (PLT) has made significant strides in its mission to enhance green spaces for pollinators across London.

Our activities have included carrying out surveys, mapping and working with others to enhance biodiversity corridors, funded by a grant from the City of London Corporation.

We have been active in raising awareness about the importance of pollinators through various events, such as educational days at historical sites like the Discovery Day at Hampton Court Palace and the Livery Schools Link Showcase at The Guildhall.

These events often include presentations and hands-on activities designed to engage and educate the students and public, providing information about supporting pollinators and their habitats.

We have also been involved in collaborative projects like the Urban Nature Project with the Natural History Museum, demonstrating a strong commitment to community engagement and environmental education.

These efforts are part of PLT’s broader goal to serve as a model for similar initiatives in other urban environments, leveraging our successes in London to inspire and guide conservation efforts throughout the UK.

Looking into the year ahead we have further projects planned such as a well-being experiment, and inaugural annual pollinator counts and further surveys across the City.

2023 Survey Report

In 2023, a thorough effort by the PLT team to conduct pollinator surveys across the City of London for the second year produced a wealth of data, studying both ground-level and roof gardens across the city.

A total of 9,606 insect pollinators were recorded in the City of London during the four rounds of surveying in 2023: 57% of the pollinators recorded were honeybees, 6% other flies, 3% wasps, 2% beetles, less than 1% butterflies, and less than 1% were moths. Additionally, the survey identified 10 bumblebee species, along with 33 types of solitary bees, 23 hoverfly species, 5 different butterfly species and 3 different types of moths.

In terms of habitat across the City of London, the habitat assessments suggested that only 16% of surveyed sites have suitable and well-maintained nesting resources for cavity-nesting bees and only 5% for ground-nesting bees. By increasing the diversity of pollinator-friendly plants, we can hope to successfully restore areas and increase their suitability for pollinators.

Recent studies suggest that a high abundance of honeybees in an area can negatively impact wild bee populations, outcompeting wild bees and other pollinators for resources like food and nesting, while also posing a disease risk. Around 75% of pollinators recorded in the City of London roof gardens during the PLT surveys were honeybees, which suggests a worryingly similar trend to previous research. Honeybees are not the only issue facing urban pollinator populations; they face numerous challenges such as habitat loss, climate change and pesticide use to name but a few. Moreover, these issues are not solely an urban pollinator problem, but extend beyond the city and affect pollinators internationally.

The findings of these surveys show us more than ever the importance of supporting pollinators across the City of London, by implementing suitable connected habitats that provide food and nesting resources to our vital pollinators.

To read the full report, click here

Our report and work have also featured in an article written by Alison Benjamin for The Guardian.

Common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum)

One of three of Britain’s only all-ginger bumblebees, the common carder bee is a commonly seen species across the UK. They can be confused with similar-looking tree bumblebees.
The carder is one of the early bee emergences in spring. It is also likely to be the last bee you see before winter sets in too. They can be spotted from March to November.

The bee can be found across multiple habitats, from gardens and farmlands to woodlands and heaths.

It is a social bee species, often found nesting in cavities and in the ground, but also in mossy lawns. Nests can be large, with up to 200 workers. The young queens survive by hibernating in winter, emerging in spring and producing worker bees.

The carder bee has an extra-long probiscis ‘tongue’ of 8mm compared with other species, allowing it to feed on tricky flowers with longer shapes, like lavender and clover. This adaptation has likely helped the bee to survive and become a ‘generalist’, being able to feed from most flowers.

Pollinators and Climate Change

We often hear how climate change will be bad for the environment, but specifically, how will it affect pollinators?

The seasonal shifts caused by global warming from climate change, for example warmer winters, flooding and drier summers, can play havoc with numerous species but for invertebrates like the insects which pollinate for us, it can spell disaster.

Changes in seasonality can ‘confuse’ pollinating species, where their entire lifecycle depends upon perfect timing. The likelihood of survival can be reduced for bees emerging too soon in winter due to warmer weather, as many flowering plants may not have bloomed, leaving the bees without their usual source of food. This is why planting sources of nectar throughout the winter aids their survival.

Not only does seasonality shift, but climate change can lead to many species being forced to move area in pursuit of more favourable climatic conditions. This can lead to some species being entirely pushed out of their natural habitats, with no suitable habitats for them to survive. In the UK, we are seeing more and more continental migratory species like the red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) stay all year, but more specialist species like mountain ringlet (Erebia epiphron), who like very niche habitats, are being pushed to their limits with nowhere to go, even leading to local-scale extinctions in some areas.

Declines in pollinators are linked to a direct threat to human health. But this isn’t just a concern for British pollinators, declines are happening globally. Studies have found that pollinator declines disproportionally harm low-income countries, due to their reliance on pollinated crops. It is more important than ever to protect pollinators both locally in the UK but also on a global scale.


Tower of London – Moats in Bloom – 18th June 2024

In summer 2022, to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the moat at the Tower of London transformed from a barren, flat lawn into a haven for bees, butterflies and other pollinators in the heart of the city. The moat was filled with wildflowers, grown from 20 million seeds. But Superbloom was not just for 2022, it is a permanent installation that continues to bloom. The project has had an amazing outreach, especially to schools across the country.

The tour will take about an hour and will be guided by friends from Historic Royal Palaces who are one of PLT’s Corporate members.

After the tour we are arranging a light lunch at the Wine Library, close to Tower Hill Underground station so, if you want, you can continue discussions and/or make new contacts over lunch.

We can accommodate a group of 35. The cost of this, including lunch, is £50/head. The tour starts at 11:45 am. (If demand exceeds the places we will see if we can arrange an additional tour.)

To book your space click here.

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park Visit – 26th June 2024

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park was opened to the public 22 years ago as part of the massive redevelopment of the area starting in the 1990s. Many of you may be familiar with the O2 but possibly less familiar with this wider redevelopment.

The Conservation Volunteers have managed the park since its inception and have arranged a private viewing for us to learn about the biodiversity created on this former industrial site. They will show us their work including the wetland areas within the park as well as the ecological interest along the tidal Thames riverbank. They also manage an adjacent park which is an important green lung for the neighbourhood.

The Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park is a 15-minute walk from the Jubilee Line’s North Greenwich station, a pleasant walk along the Thames Path, walking south with great views across the river and towards the Thames Barrier.

We will meet at 17:30 pm for a briefing on the story of the development of the Peninsula, followed by guided tours of the park itself as well as the habitats along the Thames’s tidal river edge. There will be a closing Q&A session.

The cost of this visit is £40/head and includes a donation to help the local community fund project in the park.

To book click here

After the park visit, we are planning a two-course meal at a local pub. Details on this and booking will be separate to the park visit. Details to be confirmed.

Help to support our mission and vision

To enhance green spaces in central London where all the native pollinators can thrive, and their green space habitats can be enjoyed by everyone, starting in the City of London.

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