Pollinators in Europe

Pollinators, such as bumblebees, solitary bees, honeybees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies are facing an array of concerning threats. We rely on these pollinators to help make our food through crop pollination and keep our ecosystems flourishing by pollinating flora and trees. In 2018, the European Commission launched the EU Pollinators Initiative, an EU-wide strategy to address the decline of pollinators across the region. The IUCN is helping the EU Commission to implement this initiative.

An artistic interpretation of nature with pollinators such as a bees and butterflies with #EUPollinators written in the middle Photo: Old Continent

In the European Union, 78% of native flora and 84% of crops are either partially or fully dependent on invertebrates for pollination. The agricultural contribution of pollinators to the EU economy alone is estimated to be EUR 15 billion.

However, scientific studies and monitoring have indicated a concerning trend in the health of pollinator populations. Wild bees such as bumblebees, mining bees and cavity-nesting bees are considered to be the most essential pollinators alongside other species such as the European honeybee (Apis mellifera), butterfly and moth species, hoverflies and other insects. In 2017, a German study found that flying insect populations had declined by over 75% in just 27 years with wild pollinators in particular facing a vast array of threats that are driving their decline including intensive agricultural practices, loss of habitat, pesticide use and climate change. In fact, the IUCN European Red List of Bees revealed that over 9% of European bee species face extinction. However, the same report shows that the status of >50% of bee species in Europe is unknown, which means a far greater proportion of European bee species could be in trouble.

A picture of a lassioglossum bee sitting on a scabious flower head Photo: Lassioglossum sp. © Frank Vassen

The pollinators of Europe are facing many challenges. Because of their important role in certain ecosystems, this threatens the health of environment and the many services that it provides for human survival. Furthermore, many of the crops on which we rely for food and other resources are threatened by the decline of our pollinators. As a result of this deterioration, in mid-2018, the European Commission produced a strategy, the EU Pollinators Initiative, to enable Member States to tackle this urgent conservation issue. The IUCN and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) are co-leading a consortium of five partners to implement this initiative, through an EU-funded project running from January 2019 to December 2020.

This project has four main goals:

  • Provide a comprehensive examination of current pollination conservation practices and strategies across the EU
  • Provide expert guidance to tackle pollinator decline for the agricultural industry, various business sectors, citizen science experts and local authorities.
  • Facilitate the integration of measures to protect pollinators into National Action Plans across Europe and the Common Agricultural Policy
  • Showcase Europe’s efforts to tackle the challenge of pollinator decline and raise the awareness of the wider European community to this issue via a communication campaign.

This project is funded by the European Commission.


Logos of IUCN, IEEP, Old Continent Agency, Arcadis and ICLEI Photo: IUCN, IEEP, Old Continent, Arcadis, ICLEI


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