The UK has lost an alarming 97% of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s and this has had a major negative impact on the abundance of pollinators such as honey bees, bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and moths. To address this issue, as well as giving away over a million packets of wildflower seeds to customers and members since 2009, we funded a three year trial to find the ideal wildflower mix for pollinators.
The research on our farms in Stoughton, Leicestershire and Down Ampney, Gloucestershire saw over fourteen times more bees on average on wildflower test strips compared to adjacent hedgerows and grass margins during counting sessions conducted in summer 2011!
The wildflower mixes include annual flowers such as Cornflower (which is rare in the wild), Crimson Clover and Corn Marigold, as well as perennial flowers including Yarrow, Oxeye and Wild Carrot. Having such a mix of flowers ensures that they provide pollen and nectar continuously from April through to September when pollinators are foraging.
In addition, the ratio of flower types has been optimised to prevent dominance by one species of wildflower to ensure that the mix contains flowers suited to different pollinator species. In our research for example, Crimson Clover was most visited by the common carder bumblebee (bombus pascuorum), which is a long tongued bee species, as the flower has long corolla that require a long tongue to be able to reach the nectar inside.