Promoting Pollinating Insects in Intensive Agricultural Matrices: Field-Scale Experimental Manipulation of Hay-Meadow Mowing Regimes and Its Effects on Bees
Bees are a key component of biodiversity as they ensure a crucial ecosystem service: pollination. This ecosystem service is nowadays threatened, because bees suffer from agricultural intensification. Yet, bees rarely benefit from the measures established to promote biodiversity in farmland, such as agri-environment schemes (AES). We experimentally tested if the spatio-temporal modification of mowing regimes within extensively managed hay meadows, a widespread AES, can promote bees. We applied a randomized block design, replicated 12 times across the Swiss lowlands, that consisted of three different mowing treatments: 1) first cut not before 15 June (conventional regime for meadows within Swiss AES); 2) first cut not before 15 June, as treatment 1 but with 15% of area left uncut serving as a refuge; 3) first cut not before 15 July. Bees were collected with pan traps, twice during the vegetation season (before and after mowing). Wild bee abundance and species richness significantly increased in meadows where uncut refuges were left, in comparison to meadows without refuges: there was both an immediate (within year) and cumulative (from one year to the following) positive effect of the uncut refuge treatment. An immediate positive effect of delayed mowing was also evidenced in both wild bees and honey bees. Conventional AES could easily accommodate such a simple management prescription that promotes farmland biodiversity and is likely to enhance pollination services.