5 common UK pollinators and tips on how to attract them

There are over 1,500 species of insect pollinators in the UK. Here are five common pollinators you’re likely to spot in your garden this summer:

Jun 4 2021

a bee resting on the middle of a purple plant

With summer almost upon us, it’s a good time to think about ways to attract pollinators to your garden or green space. There’s something lovely about enjoying a garden in full, flowery bloom – with all sorts of sights and smells – and a varied plant selection is perfect for attracting a wide array of insect pollinators to your outside area.

Amazingly, there are over 1,500 species of insect pollinators in the UK. Here are five common pollinators you’re likely to spot in your garden this summer:

a bumblebee on a purple flower


Bees are the most well-known and important pollinator in the UK. Unfortunately, there has been a decrease in the diversity of bee species in the UK in the past 80 years so it’s crucial to help out these furry friends wherever we can. There are over 250 species of bee in the UK, but the ones we tend to recognise best are various bumblebees and the honeybee.

The best plants to attract bees are single flowers, where the central part is easily accessible. Bees can best see the colour purple, so any flowers in the purple spectrum (such as lavender or alliums) are a good idea – but they will be happy with all sorts of colours, so whatever you have will be appreciated!

Recommended plants: allium, foxglove, lavender, marjoram

A bumblebee pollinates lavender



 A wasp on a leaf

Many of us don’t love the sight or sound of a buzzing wasp on a summer’s day but they are key pollinators. They also kill various garden pests, so they’re not all bad! Like bees, wasps transfer pollen as they visit flowers to drink nectar.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, wasps like brightly coloured, sweet smelling flowers. Unlike some bees, wasps have short tongues. So, they prefer more open flowers where they don’t have to delve too deep to get to the nectar. And if you really want to repel them? Wasps don’t like strong and aromatic herbs, so plant these around your outdoor seating area away from your wildlife-friendly plants.

Recommended plants: if it attracts bees, it’ll attract wasps! But, for those short tongues, try angelica, hawthorn, ivy, or spurge

Hawthorn flowers



a common cockchafer beetle on a white flower

Did you know almost 25% of native UK beetles are pollinators? Like bees and butterflies, these beetles feed on pollen and nectar. During their feed, pollen grains stick to their hard outer shells which then spread as they travel between plants. The best kinds of flowers to attract beetles are heavily scented with large and flat open heads. Stickier pollen is good here too!

Recommended plants: dill, laceflower, magnolia, yarrow

flowering dill

Flowering dill


Orange butterfly rests on a thistle stem against a green background

Butterflies are also important pollinators, as they cover larger areas of land than bees and so distribute pollen more widely. Butterflies uses their long tongues to drink nectar so plants with multiple, smaller flowers work well. Butterflies love warm weather, so a sunny spot and variety of plants is best for attracting them.

Like bees, single flowers are best as the pollen is harder to access in double-headed flowers. Butterflies also like sweet-smelling flowers with large leaves or petals to rest on while feeding. They are particularly attracted to red and pink plants, which make for a stunning garden display too.

Recommended plants: buddleia, hebe, red valerian, verbena

Red Valerian

Red valerian 


a moth resting with brown wings outstretched on a blade of grass.

While butterflies tend to flit around your garden during the day, moths tend to pollinate into dusk and beyond. Their rapid wing flutter helps to knock pollen all over the place! As you might expect, moths are attracted to night-blooming plants that tend to be light, pale or white in colour as these stand out in the darker evening skies.

Moths are also attracted to heavily scented plants. There are also many day-flying moths that are attracted to the same plants as butterflies.

Recommended plants: common jasmine, evening primrose, globe artichoke, honeysuckle, night-scented stock

Yellow evening primrose

Evening primrose

To encourage a wide array of pollinators, it is a good idea to plant a range of different flowers and plants throughout the spring and summer months when they’re most active – think March to September. And don’t forget flowering trees and bushes; willow and ivy are great at either end of the year.

Remember, a variety of colours, scents and shapes is best when it comes to planting to ensure there’s a plant for everyone (pollinators, we mean!). And greater plant variety means a more visually appealing garden too, so it’s a win-win. Check out our post for tips on improving your green space for pollinators, including the importance of hedgerows.

Also keep an eye on our ‘Pollinator Hub’ (coming soon!) for all our resources and to find out more on how you can make your own #pollinatorpledge this summer.

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