‘Simply incredible’ farm draws more than one million bees

A bumblebee at Dingley Dell Picture: MARK HAYWARD

A bumblebee at Dingley Dell Picture: MARK HAYWARD - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk pig farm is alive with the sound of bees – after attracting more than a million of the vital pollinators.

From left, Mark and Paul Hayward in their wild flowers Picture: MARK HAYWARD

From left, Mark and Paul Hayward in their wild flowers Picture: MARK HAYWARD - Credit: Archant

Bumblebees are in steep decline across Europe – and environmentalists fear they could face mass extinction.

But farming brothers Paul and Mark Hayward, of Dingley Dell Pork in Campsea Ashe, near Wickham Market, decided to do their bit to reverse the trend by planting out large swathes of the farm with wild flowers to attract them.

MORE – Popular attraction set for relaunch after three months in lockdownNow a big bee count under the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS) has revealed there are around 1,186,300 bumblebees on the brothers’ farm – and their incredible feat has attracted praise from environmental groups.

“This was our target when we started – to grow enough nectar to feed a million bees on a single day,” said third generation farmer Mark.

Grace Hayward carrying out a survey of bee numbers on the farm Picture: MARK HAYWARD

Grace Hayward carrying out a survey of bee numbers on the farm Picture: MARK HAYWARD - Credit: Archant

“We are acutely aware that bees are under threat from modern farming methods and that East Anglia is one of the worst offenders for bee foraging diversity.

“Every third bite of food you eat can be attributed to pollinators and we wanted to create an operation on our farm that did not push nature out but rather embraced it – as a central part of our eco system and our food cycle.”

Mark’s eldest daughter Grace, 18, took a leading role in the bee count, which involved marking out square metre patch of land and counting first number of flowers in the patch and then the bees feeding there over a one minute period.

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The team carried out counts in different flower mixes with a high of 19 bees counted in the phacelia which the brothers had planted.

Pigs living alongside fields of phacelia at Dingley Dell Pork Picture: MARK HAYWARD

Pigs living alongside fields of phacelia at Dingley Dell Pork Picture: MARK HAYWARD - Credit: Archant

These figures were then multiplied by the land space for each type of flower mix to give an estimate of the total number of insects feeding.

Gill Perkins, chief executive of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust said: “Nobody has done anything of this scale before and the point that should be made here is how committed Mark and Paul are to ensuring that their farm is pollinator-friendly. Their commitment and passion for protecting bumblebees has to be applauded. And what they have done here is truly exceptional.”

Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, said the farmers’ efforts had been “simply incredible”. “I’ve visited Dingley Dell and applaud Mark and Paul Hayward for their enthusiasm and commitment to animal welfare and the environment.”

A bee on phacelia at Dingley Dell site Picture: MARK HAYWARD

A bee on phacelia at Dingley Dell site Picture: MARK HAYWARD - Credit: Archant

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