Come late spring our wildflower meadows at Flanders and Blawhorn Moss burst into life and fill the reserve entrances with colour. Besides being incredibly beautiful, these meadows offer crucially important habitat for insects, birds and small animals.
Worryingly, since the 1930s Britain has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows, leaving many flowering plants, and the variety of wildlife that they support, under threat. Pollinating insects are particularly at risk from the loss and fragmentation of suitable meadow habitat and from changes in land use, disease, insecticides and climate change. Across the world wild pollinator populations are plummeting, including bumblebees and other bees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies. Pollinators are not only vitally important to our global food security, with 1 in 3 food crops being pollinated by wild insects, but they are also an integral part of our biodiversity and ecosystems. Urgent action is required to address the challenges facing pollinating insects and reverse the declines.
By creating and managing meadows at our reserves we can help to conserve both wildflowers and pollinating insects in Scotland. Our meadows contain pollinator-friendly flowers that produce lots of nectar (as an energy source) and pollen (for protein), including common knapweed, yellow rattle and tufted vetch. One of our prettiest wildflowers, Ragged robin, now rarely seen in the wild due to wetland scarcity across the country can be found growing in our meadow at Flanders Moss.
At the moment we have been cutting and raking the meadows in preparation for sowing seeds and I’ve been learning about the process of meadow management and how to ensure their success. I’m not a gardener (mostly owing to the fact that I don’t have a garden!) but it has got me thinking about what we can do as individuals to help pollinators. Now is the time of year to start planning for pollinators and there are loads of resources available to help you do just that!
There are an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK and the way that we look after them can make a huge difference to our wildlife. If you have space, why not make space for nature and create your own wildflower meadow – find out how to do so here and here. If, like me, your garden comprises a 2x1m balcony complete with mop and bucket then not to worry, you can still help pollinators by planting flowers in window boxes, hanging baskets and pots – find out how here. You can also manage your garden to help pollinators and other wildlife all year round – find out more here.
And don’t forget to look out for our pollinator trail at Flanders in late spring!