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Road verges sown with wildflower seeds are very attractive to bumblebees, study shows

A new study into the attractiveness of road verges sown with wildflower seeds has found them to be extremely attractive to bumblebees.

The ‘On the Verge’ scheme manages the verges on roadsides, roundabouts, school grounds, parks and other unused urban land in central Scotland by sowing them with wildflower seed mixes. Up to 50 times as many bumblebees were found in the wildflower areas, showing that schemes like this are possibly extremely beneficial to bumblebee populations.

Lorna Blackmore, who carried out the study, says: “The On the Verge team that planted these patches have shown just how easy it is to boost nature in the city. They also provide city-dwellers with an opportunity to experience nature right on their doorstep.”

Professor Dave Goulson, the study’s senior author, says: “It is wonderful to see how effective this simple approach is. The flowers are beautiful, much more attractive than the regularly-mown grass they replaced, and less trouble to look after. In summer these patches were alive with insects of all sorts. With urban areas set to expand considerably in the UK, this is one way we can minimise the impact on wildlife. Perhaps we can turn our cities and towns into sanctuaries for wildlife, places where wildflowers, bees, butterflies and birds can all thrive.”

At Bumblebee Conservation Trust, we have created our own pack for Local Authorities to help people lobby their councils to do more to help bumblebees by doing things like this. Click here to view the pack.

‘Evaluating the effectiveness of wildflower seed mixes for boosting floral diversity and bumblebee and hoverfly abundance in urban areas’, Lorna Blackmore and Dave Goulson. Published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity, online February 2014.

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