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Public engagement in pollinator conservation is important because people collectively own, use and manage large areas of land consisting of gardens and public parks. Despite lots of research about pollinators and how to protect them, there has been almost no research into how to improve public engagement in pollinator conservation. Following a large-scale survey of the UK public, we found that people’s perceptions, values and identity were more important than their knowledge in predicting how much they were doing to help pollinators. A person’s diversity of nature interactions, and how able they felt to help, were the best predictors of how much they were doing to help pollinators.

Our findings reveal three main practical insights:

  1. Several simple, low-cost pollinator conservation actions (reduced mowing, leaving areas unmown and creating patches of bare ground for ground-nesting bees) are currently under-used and should be prioritised by conservation projects.
  2. Strategies are needed to overcome perceived barriers to helping pollinators, for example by providing free resources (e.g., seeds of pollinator-friendly plants) and communicating simple beneficial actions that can be carried out with limited time, space and money.
  3. Public engagement in pollinator conservation could be increased by engaging, inspiring and empowering people to help pollinators and to take responsibility for their local environment, for example through education and community projects involving the public in managing public parks. This is likely to be more effective for increasing public engagement in pollinator conservation than projects that focus only on increasing people’s knowledge.