Can you hear the buzz? New guides will help increase pollinator-friendly habitats
Posted on behalf of: Sussex Sustainability Research Programme
Last updated: Tuesday, 25 April 2023
With daffodils in full bloom and the luring scent of cherry blossoms, many of us enjoy spending more time outdoors, soaking up the sun and exploring what nature has to offer. But we are not the only ones rushing to parks and admiring flowery meadows. When spring has sprung, bees and other buzzing insects are attracted by flowers to feed on their nectar and pollen whilst performing the critical task of pollination.
Sadly, with insect populations declining rapidly, spotting pollinators particularly in cities is becoming more and more difficult. Their natural habitats are increasingly scarce due to agricultural land use or urban development which again has negative effects on wild and crop plants. Reversing the decline of pollinators and enhancing biodiversity in urban and peri-urban areas is amongst the goals of researchers at the University of Sussex studying pollinator behaviour.
Dr Beth Nicholls, Research Fellow at the School of Life Sciences, and member of the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP), has been using a citizen science approach to understand the potential of small-scale farming to contribute to global food security. Using Brighton, UK, and Kolkata, India, as case studies, her work investigates the dependency of these systems on insect pollination.
With funding from the SSRP Impact Fund Dr Nicholls has now produced beginner friendly guides to provide much-needed information on wildlife gardening, urban growing spaces and pollinators to non-experts. These evidence-based guides, which are aimed at individual urban growers and community groups, build on Dr Nicholls’ extensive research, including the SSRP-funded project ‘People, Pollinators & Pesticides in peri-urban farming’, led by Professor Dave Goulson in collaboration with colleagues in Geography, the Science Policy Reserch Unit (SPRU) and Law, and researchers at the University of Calcutta, as well as local community groups and organisations in Sussex.
Feedback from citizen scientists taking part in the project, and from other allotment and gardening groups that Sussex researchers frequently collaborate with, suggested that there is a need for simple and evidence-based information to empower urban growers to create pollinator-friendly habitats.
With the help of community garden volunteers and pollinator enthusiasts, the newly designed ‘beginner pollination guides’, information signs and ‘bee n bee’ hotels have now been installed at three different community orchards across the city: Brighton Permaculture Trust’s Home Farm Orchard, in Stanmer Park; Racehill Community Orchard, in Whitehawk; and Growing Hollingdean Orchard, in Hollingdean.
Are you keen to make surrounding green spaces more pollinator-friendly but don’t know where to start? Pop into Brighton’s community orchards, take a look at the new signs and spot pollinators in action. Now that hibernation season is over, don’t miss out on some exciting outdoor events happening this Spring, including:
- Growing Hollingdean’s Blossom Walk (Sunday, 30 April, 10am-noon. Meet at Surestart Centre, Brentwood Road, BN1 7DY)
- and Brighton Permaculture Trust’s annual Apple Blossom Day (Sunday, 30th April 1-5pm, Home Farm Orchard, Stanmer)
Want to build your own bee hotel to attract solitary bees to your own garden, allotment or school? The beginner’s guides are also available to download for free from the Nicholls Lab webpages.
Are you too a Sussex academic and looking for (extra) funding to increase sustainability research with impact? You might be eligible to apply to two further small grants funding opportunities currently offered by the programme, including our SSRP Impact Fund. Find out more here