Pollinators are not confined to individual fields or even to individual farms, so their needs must be considered at a larger ‘landscape-scale’. At a landscape-scale there is great scope to work in collaboration with other farmers and landowners to produce bigger and more beneficial results on the ground. Planning the provision of food, sheltering and nesting opportunities across a landscape will have greater benefits for pollinators and can also ensure efficient use of financial resources. Coordination with neighbours can be an effective way of identifying and developing ideas, and brings with it opportunities for collaborative land management and efficiencies in working such as sharing equipment, joint use of contractors and shared grazing schemes.
Creating a patchwork of habitats across a landscape
Pollinator abundance is usually highest in places where there are existing areas wildflower-rich grassland, heathland, and small woodlands and where these are well connected (for example by hedgerows or flower-rich margins). Pollinators will forage or disperse from areas of good habitat into wider farmland, but the distance they can travel varies between species; for example bumblebees may travel over a kilometre, while many solitary bees will only travel a few hundred metres. To protect and increase numbers of pollinators it is therefore essential to help them move between important habitats areas and into the wider farmed landscape. In addition most species require a range of habitat features either within an individual site or within a wider landscape in order to complete their life cycle. It is therefore essential to create a patchwork of habitats across whole landscapes.
- Work with your neighbours to create a mixture of habitats such as grassland, hedgerow, woodland and scrub that will help to increase wild pollinator diversity and crop pollination services. There may be features you can create on your land to complement what your neighbour is able to provide.
- Put features such as scrub, small patches of bare ground, or tall flower-rich vegetation back onto your and surrounding farms to create ‘mosaics’ of habitat
- Provide a diversity of nesting resources including areas of short turf, bare ground, plant stems, logs, ditches and other damp areas. The young of many wild pollinators have differing habitat requirements and a diversity of nesting areas should help increase pollinator numbers.
Providing enough flowers across a landscape
The diversity of your wild pollinator community can be increased at a landscape-scale by enhancing food resources locally. Current research suggests that managing 2% of arable land as flower-rich habitat will boost local populations of pollinators, and boost total crop yields. Increasing the amount of flowers across the landscapes helps to reduce the distance that pollinators need to forage. This in turn means they expend less energy at vital times of the year, for example when bumblebees are trying to raise healthy queens that survive the winter. Ideally food needs to be available within foraging distance of the nest, i.e. 100 metres for solitary bees and up to 1,000 metres for bumblebees.
- Work with neighbouring farms to maintain or create a minimum of 2 hectares (ha) of flower-rich habitat and 1 kilometre (km) of flowering hedgerow for every 100 ha of the landscape. This can include existing wildflower-rich habitats, newly created flower-rich margins or just areas of ‘weedy’ species such as dead-nettles, thistles and hogweed
- Ensure that patches of wildflower-rich habitat are at least 0.25ha in size (ideally with some patches of 2 ha) and no further than 0.5 km apart
Help Pollinators move across the landscape
Pollinators and other wildlife need to be able to move across a landscape both so they can move to and colonise new habitats and also to help them to adapt to environmental or climatic changes. You can help pollinators move across a landscape by developing corridors linking together existing areas of habitat. This can be achieved at a farm-scale, but ideally to make sure everything joins up you need to work with your neighbouring farms. Ideally larger habitat patches should be no further than 0.5km from each other and then joining them with wide flower-rich margins or hedgerows will make it easier and safer for pollinators and other wildlife to move around.
- Talk to neighbouring farmers and landowners to find out what existing areas of wildflower-rich habitat already exist across the landscape. Look to identify where new habitat corridors could be developed to provide valuable links between them and provide movement corridors for many insect pollinators.
- Increase the size of existing corridors, such as hedgerows, ditches and road/track verges by creating flower-rich margins or grass buffers alongside them. Larger/wider habitats can help protect species from surrounding land-use pressures. By working together with adjacent farms holding joint boundary, features such as hedgerows could be made into wide wildlife corridors.
- Create ‘stepping stones’ of wildflower-rich habitat or shrubs to help pollinators move across the landscape where there are few linear corridors.
See further information at: B-Lines.
For further information on how Countryside Stewardship can provide support for farmers to work together see Facilitation Funding
For more detailed information on managing farmland for invertebrates visit our habitat pages for grassland, woody habitats, arable land, and wetlands and water.