Two replicated trials showed that species richness of bees nesting (one study) or foraging (one study), is higher on set-aside that is annually mown and left to naturally regenerate for two years or more, relative to other set-aside management regimes or, in the nesting study, to arable crop fields.
One replicated controlled trial in Scotland showed that species-rich grassland managed under agri-environment schemes attracted more nest-searching queen bumblebees but fewer foraging queens in the spring than unmanaged grassland. Three small trials, two in the UK and one in Germany, found that restored species-rich grasslands had similar flower-visiting insect communities (dominated by bees and/or flies) to paired ancient species-rich grasslands.
Evidence on whether reduced tillage or no tillage benefits ground-nesting bees is mixed. Two replicated trials on squash Cucurbita spp. farms in the USA had contrasting results. One showed no difference in the abundance of bees between tilled and untilled farms, the other found three times more squash bees Peponapis pruinosa on no-till farms than on conventional farms.
One replicated controlled trial on lowland farms in Scotland showed that grassy field margins attracted nest-searching queen bumblebees in spring at higher densities than cropped field margins, managed or unmanaged grasslands or hedgerows.
Three replicated controlled trials in the UK have monitored wild bees on uncropped grassy field margins. Evidence of the effects on bees is mixed. One trial showed that 6 m wide grassy field margins enhanced the abundance, but not diversity, of wild bees at the field boundary. One trial showed that 6 m wide grassy field margins enhanced the abundance and diversity of bumblebees within the margin. A third, smaller scale trial showed neither abundance nor diversity of bumblebees was higher on sown grassy margins than on cropped margins.
One replicated controlled trial showed that hedges managed under the Scottish Rural Stewardship scheme do not attract more nest-searching or foraging queen bumblebees in spring than conventionally managed hedgerows.
We have captured no evidence that increasing the use of clover leys can enhance wild bee populations. One replicated trial in Germany showed that fields planted with a white clover grass mixture do not attract solitary bees to nest preferentially on site. A trial in Switzerland showed that if white clover is mowed during flowering, injuries and mortality of bees can be reduced by avoiding the use of a processor attached to the mower.
Fourteen trials in Europe and North America have recorded substantial numbers of wild bees foraging on perennial or annual sown flowering plants in the agricultural environment.Ten trials (eight replicated) have monitored bees foraging on patches sown with a high proportion of phacelia Phacelia tanacetifolia on farmland and all but one found substantial numbers of foraging wild (non-Apis) bees, particularly bumblebees Bombus spp. Six of these trials recorded the number of foraging bee species, which ranged from eight to 35. One replicated trial shows that phacelia is not very attractive to wild bees in Greece.One replicated controlled trial in the UK showed that planted perennial leguminous herbs, including clovers, were more attractive to bumblebees in landscapes with a greater proportion of arable farming. Four replicated trials have quantified the wider response of wild bee populations to planted flower patches by measuring reproductive success, numbers of nesting bees or numbers foraging in the surrounding landscape. One trial showed that planted patches of bigleaf lupine Lupinus polyphyllus in commercial apple orchards in Novia Scotia, Canada, significantly enhanced the reproductive success of blue orchard mason bees Osmia lignaria. One trial in the Netherlands showed that bee numbers and species richness are not higher in farmland 50-1,500 m away from planted flower patches. Two trials in Germany found no or relatively few species of solitary bee nesting on set-aside fields sown with phacelia or clover respectively.
Five replicated trials in Europe (three controlled) have documented bumblebees foraging on field margins sown with an agricultural nectar and pollen seed mix. Four replicated trials showed that field margins sown with perennial leguminous flowering plants attract significantly more foraging bumblebees than naturally regenerated (two trials), grassy (four trials) or cropped (three trials) field margins. Three replicated trials showed that a mix of agricultural forage plants including legumes (all annual plants in one trial) attracts greater numbers of bumblebees than a perennial wildflower mix, at least in the first year.Three trials in the UK found evidence that margins sown with agricultural legume plants degrade in their value to bumblebees and would need to be re-sown every few years. We have captured no evidence on the effects of field margin management on solitary bees.
Five replicated trials in the UK showed that uncropped field margins sown with wild flowers and subsequently mown support a higher abundance (and in three trials higher species richness) of foraging bumblebees than cropped field edges (all five trials), grassy margins (four trials) or naturally regenerated uncropped margins (three trials). One small trial recorded the same number of bee species on wildflower sown and naturally regenerated strips. Two trials demonstrated that perennial leguminous herbs in the seed mixtures are important forage sources for bumblebees, particularly for long-tongued species. One small replicated trial showed that common long-tongued bumblebee species (Bombus pascuorum and B. hortorum) strongly preferred plots of perennial wildflower seed mix over a mix of annual forage plants. We have captured no evidence on the effects of field margin management on solitary bees.