New wildflower sanctuaries in South Downs National Park boost bee numbers | The bees

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Encouraging numbers of bees have been recorded in a handful of locally funded wildflower projects in the South Downs, showing that populations can recover if given support.

For several decades, bee populations in the UK have been in steep decline due to the stress of the climate emergency.

Bees are vital in growing plants as they help them grow by transferring pollen between flowering plants. According to the WWF, almost 90% of wild plants and 75% of crops depend on animal pollination.

Residents of Sussex have raised £75,000 to help a fledgling charity, Bee Lines, plant wildflower oases in the South Downs National Park, aided by grants from the South Downs National Park Trust.

These oases have been planted across farms, community fields and roadsides, creating corridors of wildflowers that are effectively a “road network” for bees, helping them move easily across the landscape.

Nick Heasman, who runs Bee Lines for the national park, said: ‘Bees are vital ecosystem engineers and it’s so important that we try to stop and reverse their decline.

A new wildflower meadow in the South Downs National Park, which stretches from Winchester to Eastbourne. Photograph: South Downs National Park Trust/PA

Last year, eight projects received funding and have now flourished, with early reports showing that biodiversity has increased significantly in these areas.

They also planted corridors of wildflowers at Sussex Meadow, a farm near Petworth and at Lewes Cemetery.

Chris Bibb, who works at Lewes Council, said: ‘The wildflower seeding and rootball planting has been a great success and the variety of flowers has been popular with visitors to the cemetery and butterflies, moths, bees and insects.”

A recent survey revealed that there are now 55 species of wildflowers in Lewes Cemetery.

Peter King, Director of Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust, said: ‘Funding from the South Downs National Park Trust has enabled us to create 2.5 hectares [6 acres] of wildflower meadows on Sompting Brooks.

“Since he planted the seeds, the field has seen exceptional growth and species diversity.

“It is too early to attribute any specific species or increase in biodiversity specifically to this grassland habitat, however, we have recorded a 72% increase in pollinator species using the site since arable fields were converted to grassland. .

“The total number of species recorded at the site has increased from 179 to 624 since the completion of the entire project.”

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