Research questions

Corn flower (Centaurea cyanus) Corn flower (Centaurea cyanus)
Solitary bee on Cosmos Solitary bee on Cosmos

3. What can we do to improve pollinator diversity and abundance in urban areas?

Urban areas have the potential to support large numbers of insect pollinators, however many cultivated plants do not provide suitable forage for them.

In recent years, sowing seed mixes containing beneficial flowers for insect pollinators has become increasingly popular in urban areas across the UK. For example, in Gloucester and Stroud the Bee Guardian Foundation worked in partnership with local councils to convert green areas, such as road verges and parks, into bee-friendly habitat. In Gloucester the project replaced 10,000 m2 of bedding plants with perennial herbaceous species and created wildflower meadows.

Places with similar projects include Brighton, London and Warrington. At the London 2012 Olympic site more than 10 hectares of flower meadows were sown, creating the largest ever man-made flower meadows. These practices increase the provision of foraging resources for bees and other pollinating insects in urban areas.

The replacement of traditionally planted areas with flower meadows also has the potential to be beneficial economically as well as for insect pollinators. It has been estimated that the replacement of winter bulbs with wildflowers has helped save Gloucester City Council money. Hence changing planting regimes to incorporate pollinator-friendly flowers can provide a visually pleasing floral display and also be economically viable.

In the third stage of the project we added large flower meadows containing nectar- and pollen-rich plant species to areas of amenity grassland in Bristol, Reading, Leeds and Edinburgh. In partnership with local councils, meadows were planted in public parks, school playing fields, university grounds and road verges.

To find out more information and discover your local meadow please see our flower meadows pages.

This phase of the project was carried out in collaboration with Bristol City Council, Reading Borough Council, Leeds City Council and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Flower mixes

We planted two types of flower mix:

Perennial
A perennial mix containing native plant species
Annual
An annual mix containing both native and non-native plant species

These two flower mixes were chosen as they contain plant species high in pollen and nectar and provide forage for insects from early until late in the flowering season. Moreover, the mixes are designed to look attractive.

Timescale

In 2012 and 2013 we installed 60 flower meadows across the country (15 each in Bristol, Reading, Leeds and Edinburgh).

We sampled all of the meadows throughout 2013, noting which pollinator species visited which plant species. We are currently analysing the data from this stage of the project to investigate if planting flower meadows is beneficial for urban pollinator populations. 

Supporters

We are very grateful to Emorsgate for assistance with the perennial seed mix and Rigby Taylor for assistance with the annual seed mix.

We are also grateful to the following companies who supported this part of the project: The Landscape Group, Quadron Services Limited, CPS Grounds Ltd.

Flower meadow alongside M32 motorway in Bristol