Protecting our pollinators
The habitats of the South Downs National Park are home to many rare pollinators, such as the Adonis Blue (Polyommatus bellargus) the rarest butterfly in the UK. Both the Adonis and the Chalk Hill Blue Butterfly (Polyommatus corridon) offer a pollination service to the chalk grassland plants like Horseshoe Vetch, Knapweed and Scabious.
Approximately 80% of the pollination in the National Park is carried out by bees, which includes the pollination of valuable food crops on farmland. Crops such as strawberries, apples and pears, along with oilseed rape and borage.
These Bees include the Bumble bees, honeybees and non-stinging solitary bees. The other 20% of pollination is carried out by butterflies and moths, beetles, wasps and flies (including the charismatic hoverflies).
Some pollinators are very specific in their requirements, whilst others are happy to spread into the towns and villages foraging in our gardens. For example, the Emperor Moth caterpillars (Saturnia pavonia) need the hedgerows and heathland using heather, bramble and blackthorn. The beautiful adult moths can be up to 10cm across and can be seen during the day, flying on heathland. Part of the silk moth family they overwinter in a silk cocoon.
In the National Park many of the rarest species of pollinator can be found along the chalk ridge and this is a focus for the conservation partnerships with many other landowners. 60% of the UK’s butterflies can be found on these chalk grassland habitats.
Every stage of the lifecycle of these valuable insects needs to be considered in the management of the land in the National Park. Where the eggs can be laid, the foodplant the caterpillar needs and where the adults can forage for nectar.
Pollinators are in trouble; it has been shown that half of the UK’s 27 bumblebee species are in decline with three of these bumblebee species already extinct. Two-thirds of UK moths and 71% of UK butterflies are in long term decline.
The South Downs National Park is therefore committed to trying to reverse and support populations of pollinators and in doing so supporting the ecosystem service they provide.
In 2019 the National Park established the Beelines project to plant new wildflower corridors to connect species-rich chalk grassland sites across the South Downs.