BUZZING bees and fluttering butterflies may not cross our minds as the nights draw in and we retreat indoors but the actions we take now and into spring can really help these and other important insects, and they really need all the help they can get.

Last year, the Wildlife Trusts published a report on insect declines and why they matter, highlighting that insects are dying out up to eight times faster than larger animals. The amount of insects across Europe has declined by 75% in the last 30 years and 41% of insect species face extinction globally.

In the UK, bees, butterflies and moths have shown widespread declines with a number of species going extinct.

As a child, I remember on longer car journeys my dad scraping insects off the windscreen when stopping to fill up with petrol, that is rarely necessary anymore.

Insects may not have quite so many friends and supporters as tigers, polar bears and whales but that doesn’t make them any the less important.

Insects are critical for our planets functioning, they recycle nutrients, control pests that could otherwise decimate crops and they provide food for a great many species, including many of the birds we like to see in our gardens. Some insect species are also vital for pollination, approximately three quarters of the crops we grow are pollinated by insects, without them we would have no coffee or chocolate!

There are a number of reasons for these very alarming declines in insects and pollinators. Changes in agricultural practices and urbanisation have resulted in their habitats being eroded – 98% wildflower meadows have been lost, along with 50% of ancient woodlands and 150,000km of hedgerow.

Another major factor is the use of pesticides, mainly on farms but also in urban parks and even in our own gardens. As well as killing insects these pesticides end up in our food chain, one recent study found that 75% of honey samples contained pesticides and of course these pesticides then end up in our own bodies.

To try to tackle some of these problems, Somerset County Council published a Pollinator Action Plan with a list of actions that will help reverse declines in pollinators and other insects and Somerset Wildlife Trust is working with Somerset West and Taunton Council to try and deliver these actions, including by managing areas in public green spaces for pollinators; urban areas can make great pollinator havens.

There are also things that we can all do to help boost numbers.

If you have a garden then planting pollinator friendly plants can make a big difference, try to find plants that will come into flower at different times from early spring to late autumn.

Avoid using pesticides and herbicides and learn to love weeds! Allow patches of lawn to grow, the longer grasses provide protection for some insect species and dandelions or clover on lawns are a really important source of food.

Be less tidy, piles of leaves or dead wood provide shelter, especially over winter, and consider putting up bug hotels which provide space for insects to lay eggs.

If you only have a small garden or courtyard, a few pots and even window boxes can all provide important food.

If you live amongst like-minded insect lovers then as a community group you may be able to influence the way your local public park is managed, perhaps encouraging the managers to leave a corner for wildlife, or speak to the road verge managers and ask if it may be possible to cut some of them less frequently.

If you are a member of a church congregation, a teacher or parent of school age children or part of any other group that has access to grounds then think about how these may be managed with pollinators in mind.

Not only can our actions help reverse declines in insects and pollinators, but they can make us feel better at the same time, who doesn’t enjoy the sight of a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, or the busy bumblebee buzzing about and wouldn’t it be nice to see a few more of them?

For more information on what you can do for pollinators and insects have a look at

Somerset Wildlife Trust