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19 May 2021

Meet Polly at Inverewe

Written by Jacky Brookes
A man is standing next to a stone wall by the coast, holding a yellow pollinator counter
Operations Manager Martin Hughes with one of the pollinator counters, nicknamed Polly!
Visitors to Inverewe this season will see a range of brightly coloured pollinator counters placed strategically around the garden. They are part of a groundbreaking project to measure insect abundance in the garden.

Combatting the effects of climate change to protect the garden is a top priority for the team at Inverewe. Led by Operations Manager Martin Hughes and working in co-operation with AgriSound and Innovate UK, the team are embarking on a new biodiversity project to establish how best to safeguard the garden for future generations.

Inverewe, the most northerly of the Trust’s heritage gardens, is located on a remote stretch of coastline on the shores of Loch Ewe. It’s a paradise of unusual and wonderful plants from across the globe, where the unexpected greets you at every corner. This idyllic garden celebrates the best of human achievements in the natural environment and was created from a barren wilderness in the 19th century – a true labour of love and enduring commitment. But we also face the many challenges of climate change here. One key issue is the decline in insect pollinators, essential to the future of the garden. We urgently need to reverse this decline by ensuring the garden is a biodiverse home for nature.

A man and a woman are standing next to a large pink rhododendron bush. The woman is holding a yellow pollinator counter.
Placing one of the pollinator counters next to a rhododendron

Having lots of insects visiting flowers is really important for all gardens, but important insect pollinators are disappearing. Inverewe is one of the first places in the UK to trial a groundbreaking piece of equipment – a wild pollinator counting device, nicknamed Polly by its designers AgriSound. Their PollenNet project has been developed to gather information about local pollinator abundance and Inverewe Garden is a key partner in trialling these devices.

The device is designed to mimic a flower and will attract insects, particularly bees, that visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen. Each time an insect flies up to one of the pollinator counters, just as it would a flower, it will be counted. So, we’ll find out how many insects are visiting the different parts of Inverewe Garden, which will help us understand more about how we can encourage and protect our insect communities into the future. We’ll be able to develop a more accurate dataset on insect visitation and highlight areas for insect-boosting measures.

Martin Hughes, Operations Manager at Inverewe, said: ‘Inverewe Garden is facing the challenges of climate change, which are many, and my team here will use data from this groundbreaking project to help shape future decision making on how best to protect the garden and combat the effects of climate change for future generations. It’s leading the way in helping inform other gardens, particularly those in the care of the Trust.’

A woman and a man stand next to a low stone wall at the coast, with a yellow pollinator counter

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Agrisound, Casey Woodward said: ‘We’re delighted to be partnering with the Trust to help understand how sensor technologies can be used to protect insect biodiversity. Inverewe Garden has an abundance of different plant species, making it the perfect site to test our new technology.’

A man is sitting in front of a computer screen looking at a graph
Reading some of the data gathered from the pollinator counters

Scotland is home to a diverse range of wild pollinators including bumblebees, moths, hoverflies and butterflies and the PollenNet project to monitor and measure local pollinator abundance will be key to informing best practice. The project is leading the way forward for all gardens, especially heritage gardens, in looking at ways of protecting them for future generations. Information comparisons will be possible at local, regional and national levels via a simple, easy to access web-based interface.

So, if you’re visiting Inverewe this season, look out for Polly! She’s got an important role to play in the future of the garden.

Find out more about Polly and the PollenNet Project.

A yellow pollinator counter placed next to a pink-flowering rhododendron bush

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