Flower strips are commonly recommended to boost biodiversity and multiple ecosystem services (e.g., pollination and pest control) on farmland. However, significant knowledge gaps remain regards the extent to which they deliver on these aims. Here, we tested the efficacy of flower strips that targeted different subsets of beneficial arthropods (pollinators and natural enemies) and their ecosystem services in cider apple orchards. Treatments included mixes that specifically targeted: (1) pollinators (‘concealed-nectar plants’); (2) natural enemies (‘open-nectar plants’); or (3) both groups concurrently (i.e., ‘multi-functional’ mix). Flower strips were established in alleyways of four orchards and compared to control alleyways (no flowers). Pollinator (e.g., bees) and natural enemy (e.g., parasitoid wasps, predatory flies and beetles) visitation to flower strips, alongside measures of pest control (aphid colony densities, sentinel prey predation), and fruit production, were monitored in orchards over two consecutive growing seasons. Targeted flower strips attracted either pollinators or natural enemies, whereas mixed flower strips attracted both groups in similar abundance to targeted mixes. Natural enemy densities on apple trees were higher in plots containing open-nectar plants compared to other treatments, but effects were stronger for non-aphidophagous taxa. Predation of sentinel prey was enhanced in all flowering plots compared to controls but pest aphid densities and fruit yield were unaffected by flower strips. We conclude that ‘multi-functional’ flower strips that contain flowering plant species with opposing floral traits can provide nectar and pollen for both pollinators and natural enemies, but further work is required to understand their potential for improving pest control services and yield in cider apple orchards.
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