Insect Pollinators Initiative

Programme overview

The Insect Pollinators Initiative was a £10 million joint initiative supported by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), NERC, the Wellcome Trust and the Scottish Government, under the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership. It supported projects aimed at researching the causes and consequences of threats to insect pollinators and to inform the development of appropriate mitigation strategies to reverse the declines.

The aim of the Insect Pollinators Initiative was to develop a better understanding of the complex relationships between biological and environmental factors which affect the health and lifespan of insect pollinators.

Background & objectives

Insect pollinators include honeybees, bumble bees, butterflies and moths. Having a healthy population of insect pollinators is essential to maintain biodiversity and healthy natural ecosystems. They are vital for the pollination of wild plants which act as food resources for other wildlife, and for cultivated plants including agricultural crops and horticultural plants. Furthermore, the plants and wildlife supported directly and indirectly through pollinators provide other ecosystem services.

Pollinating insects are vulnerable to pests, diseases and environmental changes, some of which have increased significantly over the last five to ten years. For example, climate change, in particular warmer winters and wetter summers, has had a major impact on pollinator populations.


The objective of the Insect Pollinators Initiative was to promote innovative research aimed at understanding and mitigating the biological and environmental factors that adversely affect insect pollinators. Its key aims were:

  • To provide an evidence base to inform the conservation of wild insect pollinators and to improve the husbandry of managed species, in order to avoid the potentially catastrophic loss of the ecosystem services they provide.
  • To provide a basis for reducing current declines and sustaining healthy and diverse populations of pollinating insects for the future.

Insect Pollinators Initiative summary (PDF, 386KB)

Reports & key findings

The projects funded under this initiative were:

Sustainable pollination services for UK crops (PDF, 238KB) - Dr Koos Biesmeijer, University of Leeds

Modelling systems for managing bee disease: the epidemiology of European foulbrood (PDF, 251KB) - Dr Giles Budge, Food & Environment Research Agency

Investigating the impact of habitat structure on queen and worker bumblebees in the field (PDF, 215KB) - Dr Claire Carvell, NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

An investigation into the synergistic impact of sublethal exposure to industrial chemicals on the learning capacity and performance of bees (PDF, 203KB) - Dr Chris Connolly, University of Dundee

Linking agriculture and land use change to pollinator populations (PDF, 166KB) (PDF, 167KB) - Professor Bill Kunin, University of Leeds

Urban pollinators: their ecology and conservation (PDF, 204KB) (PDF, 205KB) - Professor Jane Memmott, University of Bristol

Impact and mitigation of emergent diseases on major UK insect pollinators (PDF, 158KB) - Dr Robert Paxton, Queen's University of Belfast

Unravelling the impact of the mite Varroa destructor on the interaction between the honeybee and its viruses (PDF, 193KB) - Dr Eugene Ryabov, University of Warwick

Can bees meet their nutritional needs in the current UK landscape? (PDF, 195KB) - Dr Geraldine Wright, Newcastle University