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Scientists turn the spotlight on Bristol’s insect life this spring

More than 100 parks, gardens, allotments, cemeteries and other natural and man-made habitats across Bristol will be studied by scientists from the University of Bristol this spring as part of the next phase of a three year, £1.3 million research project examining how bees, flies and other pollinating insects are affected by urbanization.

Over the next few months, teams of ecologists will be sampling plants, pollinators and their interactions in gardens across four UK cities, including Bristol.  They will also be creating large flower meadows in 15 sites in public parks and school grounds in each city.  These flower-rich meadows will provide pollen and nectar for pollinating insects and act as ‘wildlife corridors’, allowing insects and other invertebrates to thrive.

Urban areas now comprise 9 per cent of land in the UK so it is important to know how pollinators are affected by city life.  This fieldwork will provide exact data on where pollinators can be found in the UK and shed light on the complex network of interactions between plants and their pollinators.  The information collected will ultimately help local authorities to bring about more effective conservation management of these important insects.

Professor Jane Memmott of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences who is leading the project, said: “Bristol has a wide array of insect life, including bees, beetles and butterflies which work as pollinators, many of which can be found in the average back garden.  This research will help to suggest the most effective conservation methods and ensure a better future for these fascinating and hard-working insects we so often take for granted.”

The research will be carried out in four UK cities: Bristol, Reading, Leeds and Edinburgh.  It is funded jointly by a grant from the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council), Defra, NERC (Natural Environment Research Council), the Scottish Government and Wellcome Trust under the Insect Pollinators Initiative.

The project, Urban pollinators: their ecology and conservation, runs until July 2014. 

The project is a collaborative study between the University of Bristol, University of Edinburgh, University of Leeds and University of Reading.

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This research will help to suggest the most effective conservation methods and ensure a better future for these fascinating and hard-working insects we so often take for granted.

Professor Jane Memmott