BES Creates a Buzz at the British Science Festival

What can you do to make your garden fabulous for wildlife? Today members of the public joining the BES in Guildford at the British Science Festival found out when Dr Ken Thompson, University of Sheffield outlined handy hints and tips to make urban green spaces biodiversity hotspots. Planting almost anything will attract wildlife to your garden, as long as you make use of the volume of the space; layering plants to create a garden as diverse and complex as possible. Dr Thompson debunked various myths in front of a varied audience at the Festival; a small garden is just as good as a large one at providing a home for wildlife and, in fact, invertebrates make up the majority of biodiversity in gardens. Don’t get caught up in attracting rare species, Dr Thompson said, concentrate on the invertebrates, from which all else will follow.

Dr Nikki Gammans, Project Officer at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, also delivered a very interesting talk, part of the BES panel discussion, ‘Gardening for Wildlife: can suburbia become Britain’s largest nature reserve?’. Dr Gammans is overseeing a project to reintroduce the short-haired bumblebee, declared extinct in the UK in 1988, to Dungeness in Kent. Dr Gammans will travel to New Zealand later this year to bring back short-haired bumblebee queens, encouraging them to breed once more on newly restored habitat, maintained by the RSPB, near Romney Marsh. A new technique has been found to rear the bees in captivity, making sure that the population has a viable chance of success on arrival in this country.

Our other speakers, Helen Bostock, Johanna Forster and Professor Dave Goulson also delivered extremely interesting talks. Johanna provided an overview of how gardens will alter in future due to climate change, and how gardeners can adapt to this. Extremes of temperature and rainfall will present challenges to gardeners in 2050. Helen Bostock introduced the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Plants for Bugs’ project, aiming to assess whether native, non-native or near-native plants are best for wildlife in gardens. Professor Dave Goulson chaired the panel and provided background on bumblebee declines in the UK: with 98% of the UK’s flower meadows now destroyed, bumblebees face a tough time; if gardeners could plant larger numbers of wildflowers at home, this would greatly help the bumblebees to survive.

The BES organised a press conference at the British Science Festival to showcase Dr Gammans’ work. Read more here.

Dr Ken Thompson was also inteviewed by the press at the event. See coverage here.