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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Planted patches of flowering legumes attract more bumblebees in landscapes with more arable land, in east and central England

Published source details

Heard M.S., Carvell C., Carreck N.L., Rothery P., Osborne J.L. & Bourke A.F.G. (2007) Landscape context not patch size determines bumble-bee density on flower mixtures sown for agri-environment schemes. Biology Letters, 3, 638-641


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Plant dedicated floral resources on farmland Bee Conservation

In a replicated, controlled trial in eastern and central England, Heard et al. (2007) showed that patches sown with a 20% legume seed mix (clovers Trifolium spp. and bird's-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus) at eight sites attracted significantly higher densities of bumblebees than control patches of non-crop vegetation typical of the site (average 26 bumblebees/200 m2 on forage patches compared to 2 bumblebees/200 m2 on control patches). Honey bees Apis mellifera and cuckoo bumblebees (Bombus [Psithyrus] spp.) were not in greater densities on forage patches. The study also showed that bumblebee densities on sown forage patches were higher in areas with a greater proportion of arable land in a surrounding 1 km radius circle of landscape than in landscapes with less arable and more grassland, woodland and urban habitat. This demonstrates that planted leguminous forage is more valuable to bumblebees in intensive arable landscapes.

Plant nectar flower mixture/wildflower strips Farmland Conservation

A replicated, controlled trial from 2003 to 2005 in eastern and central England (Heard et al. 2007) found that forage patches sown with a 20% legume seed (clovers Trifolium spp. and bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus): 80% grass mix attracted significantly higher densities of bumblebees Bombus spp. than control patches of non-crop vegetation typical of the site (average 26 bumblebees/200 m2 on sown forage patches compared to 2 bumblebees/200 m2 on control patches). Honey bees Apis mellifera and cuckoo bumblebees (Bombus [Psithyrus] spp.) were not found in greater densities on forage patches. The study also showed that bumblebee densities on sown forage patches were higher in areas with a greater proportion of arable land in a surrounding 1 km-radius than in landscapes with less arable and more grassland, woodland and urban habitats. Eight areas with varying proportions of arable, grassland, woodland and urban areas in the surrounding landscape were studied. Four treatments were established in each area from autumn 2003 to spring 2004: sown forage patches of 0.25, 0.5 and 1 ha and one control patch of non-crop vegetation typical of the area. Bumblebees and honey bees were surveyed monthly from May to September 2005 on two 2 x 100 m transects in each forage patch.