There are over 1500 species of insect pollinators in the UK, this includes bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, hoverflies and some beetles. They are essential for biodiversity and ecosystem function.
We have over 220 species of solitary bee, around 25 species of bumblebee and 1 species of honeybee in the UK. Most people think that honeybees are our most important pollinators but some solitary bees, like the red mason bee, are much more efficient pollinators. Some of the larger bees, like the common bumblebee species, have distinctive patterns and colours, making them easy to identify in the field. However, others, like the solitary bees, requires more practice as some can only be identified by examining small features on their bodies under a microscope.
Contrary to popular belief, wasps are useful pollinators as the adults visit a wide range of flowering plants to feed on nectar. As well as the yellow and black social wasps we’re used to seeing, there are thousands of solitary wasp species present in the UK. Many of these are tiny and beautifully coloured, such as the ruby tailed wasp. Due to their small size, identifying solitary wasps usually requires expert tuition first. We offer wasp identification courses at FSC.
These are the flies you see hovering over flowers mimicking bees and wasps. To identify hoverflies and tell the difference between them and wasps, check their wings, as hoverflies only have 1 pair (bees and wasps have 2 pairs), plus their eyes are much larger and almost touch at the top of their heads. They also lack the thin “waist” which bees and wasps have. There are over 280 species of hoverflies in the UK. Several species can be identified in the field but most require microscopic examination to identify them to species level.
Butterflies & Moths: Butterflies and moths are also excellent pollinators, you can find out more on our Butterflies and Moths page.
Bee Identification Courses and Pollinator Identification Courses
FSC run regular Bee Courses and Other Pollinator Courses throughout spring and summer. For details of courses, and to learn more about bees and other pollinators please click above to view our courses.
FSC Butterfly Guide Featuring beautiful colour illustrations by acclaimed wildlife artist Richard Lewington, the chart includes all 60 species of adult butterflies that you are likely to find in Britain and Ireland.
FSC Moth Guide Around 1500 species of moths are found in the British Isles, but most of them fly at dusk or at night.