TWO SUFFOLK pig farmers are now feeding over one million bees after turning over large swathes of their land to wildflowers.

Third-generation family farmers and brothers Paul and Mark Wayward who run Dingley Dell Pork, decided four years ago to dedicate 33 hectares around their pig site to environmental conservation.

This involved planting nectar-rich blooms with the aim of supporting and enhancing the number of bumblebees across the farm.

The Wayward’s developed a rotational system for their pork production which allowed them to grow both grass and wildflower mixes.

Nationally 76% of bee forage plants have declined since 1930 and 97% of wildflower meadows have disappeared since World War II.

Last week, The Bumblebee Conservation Trust carried out a scientific study monitoring insect activity on the farm and found the total number of bumblebees estimated was 1,186,300.

“This was our target when we started – to grow enough to feed a million bees on a single day,” said Mark Wayward. “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. This is largely because the majority of crops planted in the region include wheat, barley and potatoes which do not produce flowers.

“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,” he continued.

The farm uses a seed mix of phacelia, sainfoin, birds-foot trefoil, alsike clover, musk mallow, campium and vetch.

Paul Wayward added: “Modern life has pushed nature out and the world knows we have a problem. We are taking a very minor role in helping society restore a more favourable balance and this starts with plant diversity to encourage in insects, bees, small mammals, and birds.

“At the end of the day, we see ourselves as caretakers of this land. Between us we have six children and we owe it to them to farm sustainability and set an example for the generations to come.”

According to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, many types of bumblebee in the UK have seen their populations decline by 70%, and two species have become extinct in the last century.

Its CEO, Gill Perkins, said: “The 'bees per square metre' figure can take a bit of finessing but even allowing for some extrapolating, the studies show that Dingley Dell is feeding at least one million bees at any one time.

“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,” she concluded.