We will help people learn about wild bees and other pollinators by creating essential habitat for them, particularly in limited space using window boxes in balconies or courtyards.
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We’re looking for 100 Brighton & Hove families who don't have a garden, but do have access to some outside space like a balcony or courtyard, to take part in a citizen science project to grow some flowers and strawberries and learn a bit about pollination. It should be a really fun and easy project to do with children (but you don’t have to have children to be involved) and we'll provide all the materials and instructions on how to take part.
See below for links to our methods sheet, recording sheets, and insect ID guide:
The project will involve people planting a growbag (which you can put into some kind of planter if you prefer) with wildflower seeds and a couple of strawberry runners. We'll provide the growbag, the seeds and strawberry plants, as well as full instructions on what to do.
We'll then ask you to keep an eye on things and let us know what flowers you get and what insect visitors (bees, hoverflies, butterflies etc) come along - again, we can help with the ID. We'll also ask you to hand-pollinate one of the strawberry plants and leave the other to be pollinated by the insects and then at the end tell us how many strawberries you got from each of the plants, and what they weighed. We'll be posting twitter updates etc as we go along so hopefully people will feel a sense of community and involvement in the project as well as contributing to scientific records and helping create some habitat for our urban pollinators. It should be lots of fun!
A 2-minute film demonstrating how to plant strawberry plants and the mini-meadow
A short film demonstrating how to pollinate strawberry plants
In the UK, 81% of our population lives in an urban area, a figure predicted to rise to 92% by 2030. Many children do not get opportunities to experience nature first hand, and so do not gain an understanding of the importance of looking after our environment, or appreciating how beautiful and fascinating wildlife can be. We propose to give people of all ages just such an opportunity even if they lack large gardens; a chance to learn how plants grow, watch their flowers be visited by bumblebees and other insects, and then to collect the fruits they produce.
Our project is focused on, but not limited to, engaging with families that do not have ready access to a garden. We will provide 'vertical habitat' for pollinators by asking recruited volunteers to create mini wildflower meadows on balconies or in window boxes. Using strawberries, we will also ask children to perform simple experiments to give them the opportunity to learn more about the pollinators that visit and their role in food production.
Strawberry plants produce better fruit if the flowers are pollinated by insects. The flowers contain both male pollen and female stigma, and can pollinate themselves. But the strawberries are larger if the flower has been cross-pollinated, or even if insect visits have moved pollen within the flower, and it is this difference that we are interested in.
The records our volunteers provide of insects visiting their flowers will also have scientific value, for they will contribute to national data sets on the distributions of our pollinating insects. The project will run for 12 months, however, we will provide detailed instructions for maintaining their wildflowers. Our hope is that we can inspire them to subsequently develop their interests and appreciation of nature further.
There is already evidence that urban areas can support strong populations of pollinators; even in the centre of cities, window box flowers are visited by bumblebees, hoverflies and other pollinators. As the area covered by urbanization increases every year, there is a real opportunity to turn our urban areas into havens for wild insects.
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