Paul Evans from the wildlife charity Buglife explains about a new source of advice soon to be available to farmers in Sussex…..
Working quietly behind the scenes, our native insect pollinators help plants to reproduce and produce fruits and seeds which other birds and animals rely on for food. Our own food is also dependent on these unsung heroes of the natural world as insect pollinators help increase yields of a large proportion of our agricultural crops including oils seed rape, beans, peas, apples, strawberries and many, many more. It is estimated that there are over 1500 species of insect pollinators, including not only bumblebees but also hoverflies, solitary bees, beetles, flies, moths and butterflies.
Worryingly evidence points to insect pollinator diversity declining markedly since the 1970s. Two thirds of larger moths and three quarters of butterfly species are known to be in decline, and half of our 27 bumblebee species and over 50% of solitary bees species are also declining. The loss of wildflower-rich habitat, brought about by changes in the policies that govern farming and urbanisation, has been identified as the likely primary cause of these declines. Pollinators are now a growing priority for government, with the National Pollinator Strategy setting out a ten year plan to help pollinating insects to survive across the England.
Butterflies provide essential pollination services, but over three quarters of species are known to be in decline. Photo by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
However, help is at hand! The new Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package being offered under Countryside Stewardship will provide farmers and landowners with funding to help address some of the key issues facing insect pollinators. It brings together a group of management options which will provide the essential resources for pollinators across the farmed landscape, including food, shelter and nesting sites. Good management of hedges and hedge bottoms, less intensively managed permanent grasslands and un-managed field corners will all provide long-term habitat features for pollinators. Carefully located temporary features such as pollen and nectar mixes and autumn sown bumblebird mixtures can all also provide useful food sources.
In the New Year, Buglife will have a new Farm Wildlife advisor who will be offering free advice to farmers across Sussex and Kent. On the ground advice will be available on how to use the individual package options to create quality habitats for pollinators and other wildlife. Further advice will be offered regarding the lifecycle/habitat needs of insect pollinators, the practicalities of implementing the key management options, and on how to ensure that key habitat features are created in the most beneficial areas. The advisor will be working closely with other advisors and initiatives in the area to provide a joined-up and complementary service.
The new Countryside Stewardship Scheme provides an opportunity to deliver habitat for pollinators through the Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package. Photo by Diane White
Buglife will be focussing a large amount of advice within a series of target areas – the B-Lines. These B-Lines have been mapped to highlight linkages between the best of our existing wildflower-rich areas, and aim to fill in some of the gaps between them with new wildflower-rich habitats. In the long-term, this will help insect pollinators and other wildlife to move around the countryside.
If this is something you may be interested in getting involved in, please look at the B-Lines map and then get in contact with Paul Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org . We hope to be able to line up farm visits or other advice for you in the New Year. If your land is outside of the B-Lines you may still be able to get advice so please get in touch.