Two Suffolk farming brothers and an Essex butcher are aiming to feed one million bumblebees this year to help reverse the decline in these vital pollinators.
Mark and Paul Hayward have sown 33 hectares (the equivalent of 83 football pitches) of nectar-rich plants around their Dingley Dell pork site and arable land. The wildflower mix, which includes phacelia, clover and mallow, is planted in blocks between the rows of pig arks.
A trial planting last year showed that up to 12 bumblebees could be seen feeding in each square metre of wildflowers. The brothers are confident they can reach their “one million bees” target.
Paul said: “Modern life has pushed nature to the fringes. Farmers can help restore this balance starting with a diversity of plants. If you have this diversity, the bumblebees and other insects, then birds and mammals, will follow.”
The project has been set up in partnership with Essex-based catering butchers Direct Meats. Managing director Martin Blackwell said: “It’s a privilege to be involved in helping to shape the way in which the pork we sell is actually produced. We must protect and enhance our bumblebees and native species.”
The United Nations has declared 20 May as World Bee Day to highlight the importance of these insects and how their numbers are threatened by urbanisation, pesticides, viruses and climate change. It’s estimated that around a third of the world’s food is dependent on bees and other pollinators. According to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, many types of bumblebee in the UK have seen their populations decline by 70% and two bee species have become extinct in the last century.
The project is being audited by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, and progress towards the one million bee target can be followed on Instagram @amillionbeesonfarm