Yet if we look after them and welcome them into our local spaces, we tend to get the bonus of more blossom, more flowers either end of the year – and more colour (and for some, the pleasure of listening to the buzz of the bees). What’s not to like?
With our BeeWild initiatives, we work with local community groups, businesses and schools discovering how best to encourage pollinators into our patch. These are not just the buzzy bumblebees and the colourful butterflies, but also the solitary bees, honeybees, beetles, moths and hoverflies we tend to not even see.
Each site we enhance for our beneficial insect friends may have a different focus - in some it may be urgent to reduce chemical usage to help them thrive, in others we can let the lawn grow just a little bit so that daisies, self-heal and violets have the chance to flower. We can cut “to daisy height” so it is still a neat and tidy space, or where relevant we could enjoy a few dandelions and ‘fox and cubs’ popping up round the edges. It is up to us to decide which trees, shrubs, bulbs and plants (and length of grassland/lawn) is best to help our pollinators.
This is where carbon capture comes in too – by reducing mowing over the growing season, more carbon sequestration takes place. If it is appropriate to grow a wildflower meadow or wildflower strips, carbon capture can be considered again. The growing of spring bulbs on a “biodiversity bank” will not just reduce the grass cutting for a few weeks, but it will sequester carbon in the process and provide vital pollen and nectar at a time of year when there is a dearth of food for our friends the bees.
If people of all ages enjoy seeing the extra colour of the flowers growing nearby and the extra flutter of a butterfly, they are likely to want to know how they can replicate that experience in their own patch. They realise that even a patio or window box can be a pollinator haven, that a swale or verge can be great for flowers, the school orchard not only looks beautiful in the spring but provides a vital ‘service’ for pollinators. And that’s where BeeWild comes in – we can help improve school grounds, care home gardens, business parks or even car parks so that our vulnerable pollinators have extra space to call home.
Our BeeWild projects are giving our pollinators more homes - and ourselves more colour, more “buzz”, more “flutter”! We’re working with communities, local authorities, businesses and individuals to help our pollinators.
Inspiration and Research – the very first local project which considered pollinators was an initiative whereby Rangers in Angus visited care home residents, shared binoculars and species identification cards and showed how to encourage birds and bumblebees into the grounds. From here the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership (TBP) set up its first BeeWild project giving kits to a sheltered housing complex, a day care centre and nine care homes. The kits included patio plantings for pollinators, fruit trees (for food and blossom), nest boxes and feeding stations for birds, and pre-formed ponds and wetland plants. Residents were encouraged to join in easy citizen science surveys and take part in wildlife events.
Along the way – schools in Perth & Kinross have long been keen on enhancing their school grounds, so the TBP offers an advisory visit and a BeeWild report for the teachers, staff and parents/guardians to use as a discussion document. A BeeWild Action Plan can be prepared later and an Information Pack provided suggesting a range of pollinator-based projects. The Partnership still provides similar BeeWild reports to care homes and sheltered housing complexes.
We are now expanding the project, working with local authority greenspace and bereavements staff in discussing – at the large scale - the Buglife B-Lines between Dunkeld and Montrose, and at the small scale, providing Snowdrops for Pollinators plantings in twenty churchyards. An even newer venture will be the Pollinators in Business Parks & Industrial Estates project.
We have published booklets and leaflets to help: Making Way for Nature in our gardens, allotments, orchards and community spaces - Making Way for Nature – Tayside Biodiversity - Traditional Orchards in Tayside: a guide to wildlife and management - (taysidebiodiversity.co.uk) - Tayside Green Graveyard - Green Graveyards Initiative – Tayside Biodiversity
We recommend using the three RHS Plants for Pollinators Lists - Plants for Pollinators advice and downloadable lists / RHS Gardening as these show which garden plants and wildflowers are good for wildlife, and also which “plants of the world” can still help our local pollinators. The lists are updated every year.
Looking back – there are many initiatives all across the UK changing the way grassland and gardens are managed, including creating sustainable perennial plantings instead of using short-term non-pollinator friendly annuals. Our lunchtime seminars have joined other webinars and advisory guides being shared across the UK. Our array of projects is just one way of working with a large number of people, especially local authority staff and community/local environmental groups. We take into consideration the Scottish Pollinator Strategy and report back to the Tayside Biodiversity Action Plan. All we want to do is improve our urban habitats for pollinators and along the way encourage as many people as possible in doing it themselves.
-reduce chemicals in gardens, schools, public places
-provide nectar and pollen in our gardens, orchards, greenspace
-plant native wildflowers, trees & shrubs
-install bug hotels- leave hollow plant stems over winter