Planning and implementing your conservation measures on a farm-scale can significantly increase the benefits to wild insect pollinators. By planning which measures to use in which locations, you can ensure that food, shelter and nesting areas are provided across the farm. Careful siting of individual habitats will enable wild pollinators to move around your farm more easily, in turn helping them to access and pollinate your crops.
At a farm-scale try to provide pollinator food (nectar and pollen) from early spring right through to autumn. Many pollinators are limited by how far they can travel for food, for example bumblebees can forage up to 1km from their nest, while some moths and solitary bees may only travel a few hundred metres. The closer together you can put patches of pollinator-friendly habitats the wider the range of species you will benefit. Try:
- Spending a little time considering how different features can work together to help pollinators live and move around your farm and look for opportunities to create new wildflower-rich grasslands, plant flowering trees and shrubs on lower quality land or allow plants such as cow parsley or willowherbs to grown in un-cultivated field corners
- Managing flower-rich margins and other habitats to provide patches of wildflowers across the farm and ensure flowers will be present somewhere on your farm from early spring to autumn.
- Planting pollen and nectar mixes to provide food during ‘hungry’ periods in early spring and later summer.
- Establishing flower-rich margins and plots where they will buffer hedgerows, ditches and existing wildflower-rich grasslands and woodland, and provide a transition from farmed land to natural habitat.
- Managing hedgerows across your farm on a two or three year rotation. This will ensure you always have some hedgerows left uncut, and provide abundant hedgerow flowers somewhere on your farm every year.
- Reducing your chemical inputs in favour of an integrated pest management system to reduce impacts on pollinators and other invertebrates. This will also benefit crop pest predators such as beetles, spiders and parasitic wasps.
Sheltering and nesting places
Insect pollinators need sheltering and nesting sites such as scrub and hedgerows, along with rough tussocky grassland, earth banks and unsprayed conservation headlands. At a farm-scale look to manage areas on a rotation to ensure there are habitats available at different stages of growth. Try:
- Creating pockets of permanent tall vegetation and tussocky grassland across the farm. Cutting these areas on rotation and using them in combination with wildflower margins and hedgerows will ensure plentiful nesting and sheltering sites are available on your farm for pollinators.
- Maintaining standing and fallen dead and decaying wood across your farm will provide nesting sites for species such as solitary wasps and hoverflies. Planting new native trees or shrubs to fill any obvious gaps across the farm will ensure there is a deadwood supply for the future.
- Managing ditches on a rotation to ensure there is a range of ditch and bankside vegetation, including bare areas and tall-grown areas across the farm.
- Managing hedgerows on a two or three year rotation to encourage a hedgerow network with a tall thick structure linking across the farm. This will provide an important source of shelter and food for wild pollinators, as well as providing corridors for them to move across the farm
Buffering and expanding habitats
Existing habitats on your farm, such as wildflower-rich grassland, woodlands, hedges, heathlands, ponds and ditches will already support pollinators and other wildlife. Looking after all these areas across your farm should be your highest priority, but you should also consider where you can create new areas of habitat either to buffer (protect) or expand these existing important areas. Look to:
- Expand or buffer wildflower-rich habitats. This will increase the habitat area available for pollinators (and other wildlife), while also buffering them from more intensively managed farmland and any potentially damaging agricultural activities.
- Create new areas of habitat to provide additional or different resources for wild pollinators. You might want to consider developing taller grown tussocky areas or pockets of scrub adjacent to a grassland as this will provide a variety (mosaic) of habitats
- Create scrub or taller vegetation on woodland edges. This will help protect the woodland, and provide warm sheltered areas for feeding and nesting.
Developing wildlife corridors across your farm
Corridors of habitat can help pollinators and other wildlife move across your farm and between areas of existing habitat. Linear wildlife corridors, such as species-rich hedgerows and wildflower-rich ditch banks provide excellent food and shelter, but also help pollinators to move across your farm. Try:
- Creating new wildlife corridors or ‘stepping stones’ of habitat between existing areas of wildflower-rich grassland. Targeting the location of these relative to existing habitats can increase their benefits, for example placing buffer strips adjacent to species-rich hedgerows.
- Planting new hedgerows or restore existing ‘gappy’ hedgerows to provide additional shelter and food for pollinators and to help species move and spread around your farm.
- Converting low-yielding or hard to manage areas into pollinator habitats. This can help to link up habitat as well have having additional benefits such as resource protection.
For more detailed information on managing farmland for invertebrates visit our habitat pages for grassland, woody habitats, arable land, and wetlands and water.