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 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.

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

Because of the challenges facing the pollinators of Europe and the consequences that face the wider environment and our agricultural needs as a result of this deterioration, the European Commission produced a strategy, the EU Pollinator Initiative, to enable Member States to tackle this urgent conservation issue. IUCN and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), are co-leading a consortium of five partners to support the European Commission to impement this iniative, through a 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 communicate with the wider European community via a communications campaign.


As part of this project, we will be leading and supporting two workshops and one conference that aim to enhance the conservation of pollinators across Europe.

The first workshop took place in November 2019 and focussed on conservation measures that benefit pollinators in Natura 2000 sites. The report about this workshop can be found here.

A conference, "Halting the loss of pollinators - role of EU agricultural and regional development policies", will take place in Brussels in February 2020 and you can find out more about that event here.

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


Go to top