Wildflower Areas Project

Everyone loves a wildflower meadow. They make a great backdrop for chocolate or washing powder adverts, but for bees and other pollinators they are critical habitat.

New Project to Support Native Insects

Sixty years ago, fields with wildflowers were common, but now they are as rare as hen’s teeth.  Apart from their beauty, they provide food and shelter for the variety of wild insects that pollinate farm, garden and orchard crops.  As the habitat disappeared, so have the insects and combined with the effects of pesticides, numbers of natural pollinators have fallen dangerously low. 2011 estimates reckoned insect pollination was worth £43 million per year to Scottish Growers.

Instead of working to protect the native insects on which their crops depend, many growers have resorted to importing colonies of bees from other countries.  This is expensive and runs the added risk of importing diseases.  A much cheaper and more sustainable option would be to restore a mix of wildflowers and support the native insects that do the pollinating.

Most farms have small patches of land that aren’t cultivated, so why don’t farmers encourage wildflowers there?  Many Councils have created new wildflower areas in parks, however people complain they look untidy.  But what looks untidy to some eyes is exactly the structure Nature needs.

We are making our small contribution by providing some wildflower seed to groups willing to commit their time and efforts to sowing and maintaining some new wildflower areas in reasonably public places, like business parks, town parks, school grounds, community gardens and so on.

Contrary to what many people think, it’s not just a question of sowing the seed and then forgetting about it.  Even if they may sometimes look a bit neglected, they do require proper care – which means cutting them once the flowers are past and the seed has scattered for next year.  It also means not cutting the area as short as a bowling green so leaving enough shelter for the pollinating insects over the Winter.

So, watch out for a new wildflower area near you, or start one in your own garden either from seed in an area or by creating a ‘living lawn’. And all the native insects taking up residence in these wildflower areas will be helping ensure fruit, vegetables and other produce continues to be available in the supermarkets.

Daisies and birds-foot trefoil ©Lorne Gill/SNH

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Ewen Cameron

Independent Member at NESBiP