Cider Orchard

Chris and Kate investigate


What to see when

  • Spring sees blossoms emerging, birds nesting in tree holes, beetle larvae feeding on decaying wood and berries attracting all kinds of birds.

  • Summer brings bats attracted to the moths and chafer beetles, insects laying their eggs in old trees and feeding on blossom nectar, and spiders web-building.

  • Fallen autumn apples feed up voles and other small mammals before hibernation as well as birds stocking up for the winter. All manner of insects feed on fallen fruit from bees and wasps to moths and hoverflies, attracting bats preparing to hibernate. Fungi and lichen thrive in the damper weather.

  • The winter cold brings out mistletoe with its white berries which are commonly dispersed by the mistle thrush.

More about orchard wildlife

This year Chris and Kate start the series by investigating a wildlife-rich cider orchard, just as the apples are ripening and harvest is in full swing.

About orchard wildlife

Orchards are hotspots for biodiversity, tending to comprise a mosaic of habitats. Importantly orchards therefore provide for species which are dependent on a variety of niches to attract their prey such as greater horseshoe bats.

As Chris and Kate discover, orchards support a wide range of wildlife and an array of nationally rare and scarce species such as the lesser spotted woodpecker and noble chafer beetle.

And it's not just the fruit fall attracting exciting species. Orchard trees tend to be short-lived giving fungi and bacteria a regular supply of rotting wood, which is also perfect for hole-nesting birds and insects. The trees are also valuable hosts for mistletoe and many rare lichens, including 5 species for which Britain has international responsibility.

More than 60% of the UK's traditional orchards have vanished since the 1960s due to agricultural and urban development. Although we think of apples as being quintessentially English, we imported nearly 70% of our apples in 2007, and many local varieties of apples, pears, cherries, plums and damsons are at risk of dying out in the UK if our orchards are not maintained.

How to help

If you're really keen it's a great time of year to plant trees, so do get hold of a native apple or pear and get planting in your garden.
See the Breathing Places tree planting page for guidance.

You could also get involved in a community orchard project. Find out more on the Common Ground website.

It's amazing what can be found amongst the UK's orchards if you look close enough, from bats and butterflies to mistletoe and moths.
Chris Packham


Go to a list of all the Autumnwatch animals

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