Creating vital wildlife-rich sites in beelines across the South Downs
Wildlfower-rich routes and pollinator-friendly habitats are being developed along the South Downs to help boost numbers of rare bugs and, with our support and that of of local communities, farmers and organisations, to create beautiful, wildlife-rich areas where we live and work.
Set up in 2000, Buglife is Europe’s only organisation devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates.
Farm pollinator and wildlife advisor Laurie Jackson said: “Our aim is to halt the extinction of invertebrate species and to achieve sustainable populations of invertebrates.”
An inverterbrate hot-spot, the South Downs is home to rare chalk grassland invertebrates, including bees, flies, wasps and oddities such as the field cricket and the fairy shrimp.
It’s also a vital part of Buglife’s ambitious ‘B-Line’ initiative.
Laurie said: “B-Lines aims to create a network of wildflower-rich routes across the UK to connect our best existing wildlife sites, by restoring and creating habitat across the countryside. These habitats are essential for bees, flies, butterflies and other important insect pollinators, but will also benefit many other species.”
Ultimately, B-Lines should provide linked areas enabling species to move through the landscape, plus attractive, wildlife-rich areas in which people can live and work.
Laurie said: “We’ve seen declines across many species but, by working in partnership with other organisations and local communities, we hope B-Lines can start to reverse this. Pollinators are essential to agriculture, as well as wild plant communities.”
Other projects include ‘Back from the Brink’ and ‘Urban Buzz’, embracing creatures such as ladybird spiders, Wart-biters’, mayflies and oil beetles.
In addition, Buglife’s Sussex landowner advisor raises awareness of the requirements of wild pollinators, reasons for their decline and ways in which we can all help them.
She works with local community groups in Chichester and Arun districts and provides talks, training and advice on pollinators, habitats that benefit them and how to create and manage them.
Laurie said: “She has also worked with the Arun to Adur Farmers Group, which includes 30 farms covering over 9,500 hectares, working together on conservation of threatened species, including invertebrates such as the beautiful Duke of Burgundy butterfly.”
‘Hold back on the mowing’
Despite worrying extinctions and declines, it’s not too late to play our part in helping our wild pollinators.
Buglife farm pollinator and wildlife advisor Laurie Jackson said: “The important thing to remember in nature conservation is that everybody can do something!”
A key way to help support a healthy and diverse wild pollinator community is to increase flower availability: “Many pollinators only fly as adults for one or two months of the year, so ensuring there are different types of flowers available from March right through to October is a key way to support them.”
As pollinators are all different shapes and sizes, which can limit the types of flower they visit, ensuring a wide variety of flowers is key.
Laurie recommended plants from the daisy, cabbage, mint and carrot families, plus dead-nettles and legumes with a long flower season. Spring-flowering trees and shrubs are also vital, alongside autumn-flowering species such as ivy.
“Pollinators also need places to nest and features such as grassy tussocks, dead wood, sparsely vegetated ground and standing water can be very helpful.”
We can make nesting sites, such as bee hotels - “avoid plastic though!” - and hoverfly lagoons.
“As individuals, we can provide these features on our balconies, at our allotments or in our gardens. We can encourage our employers to do the same - and our local councils!
“As communities, we can collaborate to look at how these different features fit together and complement each other. Our very smallest bees may only forage 100-200m from their nest, which makes linking-up flower-rich habitat and nesting sites through the landscape absolutely vital in their conservation.”
Relaxing grass cutting helps, too: “This provides the flowers these species so desperately need. Even if you need to cut some pathways and verges, there are probably areas that can be left to flower and fill with the buzz of bees and the flit of butterflies.
“Raking up cuttings helps promote diverse flower communities. When hedges are cut every year, they produce much less flower, so leaving these for two or three years will benefit pollinators and also hungry birds that feed on the berries in the winter.”
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