Amazing UK pollinators you might not have thought of

Bees are probably the best-known pollinator in the UK. They play a vital role in our natural world, or ecosystem, by transferring pollen from one flower to another.

However, they’re not the only pollinator on the block. There are actually around 1,500 pollinator species in the UK (according to DEFRA), all doing their bit in the lifecycles of the plants that rely on them.


Fossil records suggest that beetles were the first pollinators on earth. In fact, it is believed they have been pollinating plants since before the time of the dinosaurs!

Not all beetles are pollinators though, only the ones who feed on pollen and nectar, and they’re best suited to picking up sticky pollen grains which attach to their hard outer bodies.

There are around 4,000 beetle species that are native to the UK, of which approximately a quarter are pollinators. The most common of these include the oil beetle, long horn beetle and the total unit that is the thick-legged flower beetle (pictured).


Unlike bees, these glamourous insects don’t carry pollen all over their bodies. Instead, the pollen clings to their legs as they search for nectar during the day.

Butterflies mostly land on wide-open flowers as well as favourites such as common honeysuckle and heather. UK butterflies include well-known species like the Peacock and Red Admiral, as well as rarer species like the strangely-named Dingy Skipper, Silver Studded Blue (pictured) and the stunning Purple Emperor.

Butterflies are capable of covering larger areas than bees and, unlike bees, they can see the colour red. This means they can easily spot crimson, scarlet and ruby flowers – some scientists have suggested that red might even be butterflies’ favourite colour!


Once the sun has set, the majority of moths visit night-blooming plants that are white or pale in colour, as these are easier to see in the dark. These flowers also tend to smell incredible, luring moths to them in much the same way that humans might be tempted by freshly-baked bread. 

Although they don’t tend to be as popular as their flamboyant cousins the butterflies, the UK is home to plenty of interesting species of moth, such as the Elephant Hawk Moth (pictured), the Scalloped Oak and the Cinnabar (pictured at top).


They might ruin picnics, but our various species of wasps are far more than just angry annoyances. Some of them, like Rudd’s ruby-tailed wasp, reject the traditional yellow and black danger-markings for a face that looks like it’s been dipped in colour-change nail polish (as well as a shiny red bottom!).

There are seven types of social wasps in the UK, which live in groups. They range in size from the common wasp (which nests in small spaces in buildings or underground) to the large (and admittedly pretty freakin’ scary) hornet.

Just like bees, there are also solitary varieties of wasp, but unlike bees their stings have no barbs, so can be used multiple times with zero consequences to the wasp. They don’t tend to attack unless provoked, though, so next time a wasp is buzzing round remember the good they do in pollinating plants.

Did you know that all of these amazing insects rely on weeds for shelter, food and nesting sites? Find out why weeds are so vital to pollinators here.