Bees, butterflies and other wildlife

Accompanying the loss of flower rich meadows, hedgerows and other valued habitat recorded over the last 50 years has been a decline in the insects, birds and other wildlife that depend upon them.

Naturalists are reporting reductions in numbers in a wide range of species. Notably this includes common species that we may take for granted like the skylark and house sparrow as well as  rare and specialised animals that one might expect to find in a nature reserve.

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Since Emorsgate first started promoting wild flower seed mixtures in 1980 many thousands of acres of new plant habitat have been created with the hope that at least some of the losses of plant habitat diversity can be offset.  Whilst these newly created habitats cannot replace the value of ancient sites lost or damaged they have, over time, proven their worth as a new resource for wildlife.

Increasingly people are asking how they can maximise this potential and add value for specific types of insects, birds, reptiles or mammals. Specific advice is sought either as part of a local policy or BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan), targeting particular species or habitats in decline, or simply to develop or promote the interests of particular individuals or groups.

The guidance in this section seeks to highlight some of the things that can be done when creating habitat by sowing wild seeds.

In general terms, to be successful animal species need to be able to find the resources they require to complete their lifecycles.  They need food and they need shelter.

Plants sit at the bottom of the food chain and so directly or indirectly provide food in the form of leaves or pollen and nectar.

Plants through the structure of the different vegetation types also offer shelter which may include nest sites in which to lay eggs or rear offspring and hibernation sites in which to overwinter.

For diversity of wildlife it is good therefore to have a diversity of plant species and also a diversity of vegetation structure.  It is perhaps important to point out at this stage that all the elements an insect or bird species require to complete its life cycle will not always occur within one habitat.  A flower rich meadow for example will be a rich source of pollen and nectar in summer, but after hay removal and through the winter is a poor refuge for many animals who may have to move to woods and scrub.  In this way the location, arrangement and connectivity of a habitat is as important as the habitat type.

Summary

Our advice is firstly to sow and plant wild flowers and create plant communities for their own sake for their natural beauty and diversity.  Research and our own experience over many years is that sowing wild seeds to create meadows and other new habitat does yield real benefits for insects and other wildlife.  We believe that taking a holistic approach to sowing and managing botanically diverse habitats is the best way to provide the universal requirements for food and shelter for the widest variety of animals.  The complex and often poorly understood requirements of the many species we may wish to encourage limit the rewards that can be expected from a more targeted species by species approach.