Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)

2.5 Managing habitats for butterflies, bees and vulnerable grassland

Why your farm is important

The provision of pollen and nectar sources for butterflies, moths, bees, hoverflies and other insects is now more important than ever. Many species in the countryside struggle to find enough of the right sorts of pollen and nectar to sustain their populations due to loss of flower-rich habitats, especially grasslands. This threatens them (and their position in the food chain) and their availability as pollinators and pest controllers. To benefit pollinators, swards should contain a range of native flowering plants (clovers and flat-topped species, eg hogweed and cow parsley, are useful). These must provide flowers over many months and ensure there is no 'hungry gap'. Whilst seed mixes often contain grasses, the best swards for bees and butterflies tend to be grass-poor. These vulnerable grasslands contain a wide range of plant species which support a variety of invertebrates. Where a range of native plants are not present, pollen and nectar flower mixture can be sown as an alternative to flowers.


Priority areas for butterflies, bees and vulnerable grassland

This map shows the priority areas for butterflies, bees and vulnerable grassland. It is intended to help you establish whether the options below are suitable for your farm. More detailed regional maps are available on the Natural England website at www.naturalengland.org.uk/es.

If your farm is located in a high-priority or medium priority area, then by including the options into your agreement, you will be helping butterflies, bees and vulnerable grassland to thrive on your farm.






What you can do for butterflies, bees and vulnerable grassland

You can benefit bees, butterflies and other pollinators by establishing a network of flower-rich habitats across the farm. Scientific evidence shows that farmers who plant ELS nectar mixes instead of grass margins can attract up to 14 times as many bumblebees. Locating flower-rich mixes in sunny sheltered positions will make them more attractive to pollinators. If you have a range of swards, treat some like a hay crop and cut and remove the cuttings, but ensure the whole resource is not removed in any one season as some species will over-winter in the standing stems. Also, by not cutting all the flowers off, you will ensure part of the forage resource is available throughout the season (March-September).


Code Option description
EB3 Hedgerow management for landscape and wildlife
EB10 Combined hedge and ditch management (incorporating EB3)
EC4 Management of woodland edges
EE12 Supplement to add wildflowers to field corners and buffer strips on cultivated land
EF1 Management of field corners
EF4 Nectar flower mixture
EK3 Permanent grassland with very low inputs
EK20 Ryegrass seed-set as winter/spring food for birds
EK21 Legume- and herb-rich swards
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