Spring is coming and the lawnmowers are already rattling through the gardens again. Cropped greens are bad for insects and other animals. A mini oasis with wildflowers can bring a lot.
Brighton – As little as four square meters of wildflower meadows in a garden can provide a valuable haven for insects.
Significantly more pollinators can then be found, shows a two-year experiment by English researchers together with citizen scientists. Accordingly, there are, for example, more wild bees and bumblebees as well as wasps in gardens with such a mini flower meadow.
“97 percent of lowland wildflower meadows were lost in England and Wales between 1930 and 1984,” explains Janine Griffiths Lee’s group at the University of Sussex in Brighton in the Journal of Insect Conservation. Could even small patches with such meadows help to improve the habitat for beneficial insects and increase biological diversity? To clarify, the team called on citizens with a garden of at least 20 square meters to get involved via an amateur research facility and social media.
150 citizen scientists were divided into three groups: one received a wildflower seed mix sold at garden centers; one was given a seed mix formulated from scientific literature on the preferences of beneficial insects; there was no seed for the third group, which served as a control group.
All participants received colored bowls to be filled with water and some washing-up liquid – insects were caught with them. Sticky traps were added in the second year. These were set up from May to August in the first week of each month for two consecutive dry days.
A total of 34,438 caught insects were identified by experts before all the data collected were evaluated using statistical methods. In the first year, the mini-wildflower meadow gardens attracted 109 percent more bumblebees, 24 percent more solitary bees, and 126 percent more solitary wasps than the control gardens. In the second year, there were 111 percent more bumblebees, 87 percent more solitary bees, and 85 percent more solitary wasps.
The first mixture attracted more bees and bumblebees, while the second mixture attracted more wasps – including parasitic wasps that nest in the offspring of insect pests and kill them. Cornflowers, rough meadow daisies, black knapweed, carrots, horn and meadow clover as well as red campion were represented in both mixtures. Overall, however, the first mixture purchased in the second year ensured a significantly higher biological diversity among the insects than the second mixture.
“This project shows that mini-meadows can really help pollinators by increasing both insect numbers and garden diversity,” explains Griffiths Lee. Even small flower beds, whether in gardens, allotments or along roadsides, could bring measurable benefits to insects and pollinators, according to co-author Beth Nicholls. The research group hopes the results will persuade more gardeners to plant small wildflower meadows – even if they are only four square meters in size. dpa
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