Yesterday I was one of the many ecologists helping to run pollinator surveys at farms taking part in the Open Farm Sunday event. I was up at the Co-operative Rosemount farm in Perth. The main event was held in a grass field with about 6 or 7 polytunnels towards the back, filled with strawberry plants. There was certainly plenty to do, with marques filled with stalls selling bakery products, jams, strawberries, ceramics, co-operative memberships and jewellery. There was also a big space where baking and cooking demonstrations were taking place all day. Outside the marque was a display of large farm machinery, this was certainly what seemed to draw the attention of the younger (and probably the older) boys who came for the day. There was also a falconry area with various owls etc on display to the public and the customary burger and chips van. Definitely plenty to do and look around for the day.
I was set up in a smaller marque next to the polytunnels. Our little tent included the face painter and a family business that supplies bees and hives for the co-operative farms. I have to say this did results in a lot of honey being eaten during the quieter periods of the day! We were also ironically next to the table of an agricultural chemical supply company that dealt with crop pests such as leather jackets.
I kicked off the surveying effort by completing one myself at the beginning of the day. It involved 5 minutes recording pollinators on flowers in the crop (in this case the strawberries in the polytunnels) and then the same again at the field margin. In the crop there were a few flowers but really not that many. In my first survey of the crop there were no pollinators on the flowers, and nothing else really even around about. Luckily the field margin proved a little more fruitful in terms of insect activity, but still mainly sleepy beetles inside buttercup flowers. Speaking to one of the farm workers, I discovered that although it was mid-morning, the polytunnels are closed at night, so we were relying on either insect migration to the tunnel in the morning or pollinators to have remained in the tunnel at night. As it was very overcast and not that warm, it wasn’t surprising really that there wasn’t much insect activity. I was also told that there was a hive nearby, and so I was expecting to see some honeybees. I personally saw none, however some of the surveys did come back with a number of bees found on the flowers.
In total I had 9 surveys completed- including 2 of my own. Around the farm I was on, the vast majority of people were young families or those with a couple of teenagers dragged along. Many of the people the completed the survey were families with kids that definitely had an interest in entomology, and one that had a particular interest for snails! This was great to see and they were lovely to chat to. I think we did however suffer at the hands of the tractor, falconry display and the not-so-sunny weather. Maybe if there had been more flying around people would have been more interested. However I definitely had a great time, even if I did eat too much honey!