Protecting local wildlife is a growing concern, with the continued urbanisation of the world leading to more and more of the world’s open spaces disappearing. Where once were rolling hills, fresh greenery and towering trees, now stand new housing developments, corporate buildings and retail complexes.
This might be good news for our economy, but unfortunately, it isn’t so positive for our planet. In fact, preserving our local wildlife is also vital for ensuring the health of the environment. What you may not know is that the extinction of different plant and animal species can disrupt the food chain, which can have a detrimental effect on the Earth. As research funded by the National Science Foundation shows, removing just a single bumblebee species from an ecosystem will make pollination less effective, with wildflowers producing one-third fewer seeds.
Their disappearance in the UK is something that could soon become a reality, with honeybees steadily declining in recent decades. This has already begun to affect honey production, with a 2017 survey by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) revealing that beekeepers in England produced an average of 11.8kg (26 lb) of honey per hive that year. This showed that the amount of honey had decreased by 1kg from the previous year. In terms of area, honey production was hit particularly hard in Wales and the south-west, where it dropped to an average of 8kg per hive. As The Guardian reported, these areas of the UK suffered particularly wet summers that year, which may have had an effect.
Factors including climate change, agricultural development, disease and the use of pesticides (such as neonicotinoids) have all been linked to the decline in honeybee species, and they’re all major concerns for beekeepers. One such disease, known as deformed wing virus, significantly reduces bees’ lifespans to typically less than 48 hours as it causes paralysis of the legs and wings.
However, bees aren’t the only insects that are affected by such viruses and diseases. Back in February, UK researchers detected bee diseases in hoverflies for the first time, and theorised that they could be spreading these across the world when they migrate. Additionally, the increased use of pesticides and vast agricultural development over the past 50 years has also caused numbers of farmland, woodland and marine bird populations across the UK to fall dramatically.
Though there are many organisations and annual events that are bringing attention to the importance of protecting the world’s wildlife, such as National Wildlife Day and The Wildlife Trusts (which is made up of 46 local wildlife trusts), more needs to be done to protect dwindling species. What you may not know is that local councils and businesses alike should be doing more to attract and protect our local wildlife through their grounds and public gardens.
One easy way businesses can protect local wildlife is by choosing the right plants for your flower beds, hanging baskets, any other exterior plant displays in your premises. Bees are particularly attracted to fragrant and colourful flowers (especially if they’re yellow, white, blue or purple), and they love Roses, Crocus, Snowdrops, Lavender and Sunflowers, to name but a few.
To attract butterflies to public gardens and business grounds, opt for Calendula, Butterfly bush, Daylily and Delphinium. For caterpillars? Willow, Milkweed and Fennel. For hummingbirds? There’s plenty of beautiful plants to choose from, including Petunia, Dahlia, Begonia, Sweet William, Geranium and Iris.
Other ways to encourage birds to keep visiting are by investing in a bird bath (and ensuring it’s topped up with fresh water regularly) and leaving out birdfeed and high energy foods, such as suet balls. These can be kept hanging in hanging bird feeders and on bird tables.
Finally, with pesticides being one of the factors contributing to the declining populations of honeybees and various bird species, you should avoid using them wherever possible and opt for natural methods to deter weeds and any other pests. As the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) advises, pesky weeds can be controlled by using a flame gun or simply pulling them out of the ground with a fork, knife or other weeding tools.
At phs Greenleaf, we have over 25 years’ experience of providing beautiful exterior planting displays for businesses across the UK. To find out more about how we can help you to create an eye-catching display that supports our local wildlife, contact us today.