Gardeners urged to count flowers in their lawns to help bees

Gardeners are being asked to count the flowers in their lawns to help draw up a picture of how they can provide important food for pollinators.

While many gardeners prize a smooth, unbroken carpet of green, conservationists say flower-studded lawns have the potential to become major sources of nectar for bees and butterflies.

Wildlife charity Plantlife is asking people to take part in a “citizen science” project to count the daisies, dandelions and other blooms in their lawn to help experts work out how important they are for nature.

The project comes after gardeners were encouraged to leave the mower in the shed in May and let flowers bloom (Trevor Dines/Plantlife/PA)
The project comes after gardeners were encouraged to leave the mower in the shed in May and let flowers bloom (Trevor Dines/Plantlife/PA)

Nearly 7.5 million acres of meadows and pastures rich in wildflowers have been lost since the 1930s, removing a vital source of food for pollinators, many of which are now in decline.

This is a major issue, as one acre of wildflower meadow on a single day in summer can contain three million flowers, producing 1kg ( 2lb 3oz) of nectar – enough to support nearly 96,000 honeybees per day, Plantlife said.

That means Britain’s 15 million gardens, many of them with lawns, could become an increasingly important habitat for supporting species of bees, butterflies and other pollinators in search of food, the plant charity said.

What’s your #PersonalNectarScore? Count the flowers on your lawn this weekend and we’ll tell you how many bees it can support #EveryFlowerCountshttps://t.co/9MrUNVum7p@TheMontyDon@RacheldeThame@JoeSwift@Botanygeek@chrisbeardshaw@DilgerTV@CarolKlein@sophieraworthpic.twitter.com/XCtrXGDzde

— Plantlife (@Love_plants) May 20, 2019

It issued a call for gardeners to join a “no mow May” movement to leave the lawnmowers and strimmers in the shed during May to let flowers bloom on lawns.

Now it is asking green-fingered householders, whether or not they have mowed their lawn this month, to take part in an “every flower counts” project over the bank holiday weekend to count the blooms amongst the green.

To take part, people should throw a ball to pick a random patch of lawn, mark out a metre square area and count the flowers they find, such as common daisies, red clover, dandelions, dove’s foot cranesbill and buttercups, while those with large lawns can count in several squares.

Dandelions may not be popular with gardeners but are food for bees (Trevor Dines/Plantlife/PA)
Dandelions may not be popular with gardeners but are food for bees (Trevor Dines/Plantlife/PA)

The information will be used to calculate how much nectar lawns are providing and how many bees they could support, and to build up a picture of their support for nature across the country through a “national nectar score”.

It will allow Plantlife to see if lawns can be managed differently to increase the national nectar score, what the most abundant flowers are and how they can be encouraged, and help monitor changing trends over time.

Plantlife’s botanical expert Dr Trevor Dines said: “Our call for ‘no mow May’ has helped turn our famous trimmed green lawns into riots of colour with buttercups, daises and dandelions offering much-needed food for our starving bees and butterflies.”

Leaving the lawn unmown can turn it into a riot of colour, conservationists said (Trevor Dines/Plantlife/PA)
Leaving the lawn unmown can turn it into a riot of colour, conservationists said (Trevor Dines/Plantlife/PA)

He added: “Everyone who takes part in ‘every flower counts’ will receive their own ‘personal nectar score’ showing them how many honey bees their lawn can actually support.

“We’ll find out which flowers are most prolific on our lawns – will it be daisies, buttercups or clover? – and we will combine the results to produce a ‘national nectar score’, showing just how important Britain’s lawns are for our beleaguered pollinators.

“We hope this will make people look differently at their lawns and encourage them to allow more wild flowers to grow in support of millions of bees – because for them every flower really does count.”

For more information and to register to take part people can go to: Plantlife.org.uk/everyflowercounts.

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