Alice Brawley, Graduate Placement with Scottish Natural Heritage’s pollinator team, looks back on an exciting year for the Battleby grounds.
Since the release of Scotland’s Pollinator Strategy 2017 – 2027, we have increased our efforts to create a pollinator haven at our Battleby office in Perthshire. Today we take a look back on a year of pollinator activity at our office grounds, where more food sources and nesting sites for pollinators were created, along with our very own ‘pollinator trail’ for visitors and colleagues to enjoy.
If you were to visit Battleby during spring and summer months you would have a chance to see a variety of pollinators including red mason bees, red-tailed bumblebees and tree bumblebees. Let’s take a walk along the pollinator trail (see map below) to find out how the needs of these small and vital creatures are being met.
Map of Battleby grounds with different pollinator-friendly actions labelled
STOP 1 – Battleby meadow
Created in 1994, our wildflower meadow is managed for both wildflowers and pollinators. The meadow continues to evolve from year to year as various species ebb and flow, with no two years ever being the same. From oxeye daisy, bird’s-foot trefoil, red clover and common knapweed – let’s see what flourishes in 2019!
STOP 2 – Log nesting site
Pollinators need more than just nectar and pollen from flowers; they also need safe places to nest and hibernate. Some bumblebees nest underground in places such as abandoned rodent holes and under sheds. Others nest above ground in thick grass or trees. We created a loose pile of logs in an area of overgrown and un-managed vegetation. The site is in a cool place to ensure the site does not warm up quickly and provoke the queen bee to emerge early, ahead of sufficient flowers in bloom.
Example of pollinator trail information board
STOP 3 – Bee tree
At stop 3 you’ll find a large oak tree in which a colony of honey bees have made home, otherwise known as our ‘bee tree’. The bees (and other wildlife such as blue tits) set up home in large inner hollows which often contain an upper and lower entrance and provide shelter from any outside temperature extremities.
The honey bees living in this tree might in the future be pushed out by tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum). Unlike other bumblebee species which nest underground, the tree bumblebee prefers to take refuge in tree holes, bird boxes, holes in the wall, roof space and garden sheds.
STOP 4 – Red mason bee hotel
The red mason bees are solitary bees and are excellent pollinators who can make up to 75 visits to flowers a day. The red mason bee has been spreading across Scotland since 2006 and can be good news for wildflowers and crop production. As they like to occupy existing cracks and crevices, bee hotels can provide perfect nesting homes. We located our bee hotel in an area where we had previously seen the bees using the nearby masonry for nesting sites.
By autumn, all the cardboard tubes in our bee hotels had been stocked up with pollen and closed with a mud plug by the female in preparation for the larvae to eat and emerge as adults next year. Our bee hotels have been relocated to a cold, dry place over the winter months and will be moved back in March.
Installation of red mason bee hotel
STOP 5 – Orchard
The apple orchard located at upper Battleby is a good early food source for pollinators. It also provides an example of how fundamental insect pollination is to the production of many fruit, vegetables and crops. Solitary and honey bees play a key role in the UK’s multi-million pound fruit production, demonstrating their worth to the economy.
STOP 6 – Living wall
A living wall was created outside the main office to demonstrate how these innovative pieces of Green Infrastructure could transform urban environments. They can have many benefits and just one of these includes the benefits to biodiversity. To provide additional food sources, a range of pollinator-friendly plants were planted, including Achillea Millefolium, Campanula Poscharskyana, Dianthus Carthusianorum and Erigeron Karvinskianus.
And that’s not all. Staff members have been encouraged to engage with our pollinators with many walking the pollinator trail and getting involved with planting bulbs during November in preparation for next spring. In summer, staff were encouraged to take part in the Pollinator Survey (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) to not only improve national pollinator data records, but increase our own understanding of, and connection to, different pollinating species.
That just leaves…us to wish you a Happy New Year, and stay tuned for what treats we have in store for Scotland’s pollinators in 2019!