How Can Councils Help Bees?
Bumble bee on white bryony.
I am sometimes asked How Can Councils Help Bees? What can we do in our communities to help bees?
These are good questions, because you and I can exert a great deal of influence on the activities of councils in our
So why not ask your council to
help bees and pollinators?
Councils Can And Should Help Bees And Pollinators
In the end, helping the bees is
everyone's responsibility. There are many ways in which councils can do
their bit - indeed, they have major control over how large areas of
public land is managed, but remember, they work for you!
In general, the cost of helping the bees can be
negligible – whilst the cost of not doing so could be very high ultimately, not
only in terms of the loss of pollination services for the growing of food, but
also the loss of biodiversity for future generations.
Orange-tailed mining bee - Andrena haemorrhoa - feeding on willow catkin.
not only talking about the loss of bee species here, but the potential demise
of flower landscapes, and the inability of plants, trees, and shrubs to produce fruit and seeds upon which birds, mammals and other creatures may depend
(directly or indirectly).
How Can Councils Help Bees And Other Pollinators?
It's not rocket science! In a nutshell:
- by creating and preserving bee-friendly habitats
- by cutting out pesticide use
- by encouraging education and awareness.
But anyway, here are a few specific suggestions you could share with your
local council and community groups. I’m
sure you can think of more!
Actions councils could take
- Create a local ‘Pollinator
Protection Plan’ – with specific actions they themselves, and any sub-contractors
they pay on our behalf (to manage land and planting schemes in public spaces)
- Reduce mowing of roadside
verges, and instead, designate them ‘Pollinator Verges’ (or even ‘Bee Roads’!) and actively create and link up pollinator corridors to
wildflower meadows and habitats.
regularly phoned my local council over the last few years, I can tell you, the
message has got through! I have
encouraged others to do the same. Our
local council has significantly reduced mowing of verges as a result.
Be sure to phone up your council and praise them too, when they get it
right. Also, do be aware that there are
sometimes genuine reasons why a roadside verge must be mown – for example, to
maintain visibility at road junctions etc.
Below is an example of an un-mown roadside verge close to me. It may
not look much from the photograph, but it really is ideal for bees and
other pollinators. The verge features a variety of wildflowers and grasses, including knapweed, clover, colt's foot, dandelion, rosebay willow herb and more. The hedgerow behind is mixed, and contains honeysuckle and stretches of hawthorn among others.
- Leave country lanes used by pedestrians left unmown, instead of the obsession with close cropped, tidy (and sterile) verges.
This country lane (below) is literally around the corner from my home. It really is bumble bee and butterfly heaven, due to the comfrey, teasels, ivy, nettles, hawthorn and many other wildflowers growing, and it is never mown. Instead, it is left to die back naturally in the winter.
- Replace low pollinator value
bedding plants in formal planting schemes and floral hanging baskets in town
centres, with flowers of value to bees and other pollinators.
- Allow areas of waste land, brown field sites, derelict and ruined sites to become a
home to pollinators. Below you can see such an area, again, close to my
home. Although it is not easy to identify the many species of
wildflower growing in this location, I can assure you, it is pollinator
Bumble bees, solitary bees, honey bees, and a wide range of
butterflies, moths and hoverflies can be seen feeding on a range of
flowers, which includes red and white clover, bird's
foot trefoil, knapweed, ox eye daisy, various mallow, rosebay willow herb, buttercups, ragwort and more.
- Commit to creating a
specific pollinator garden, or designating a space for a pollinator garden to
which members of the public can donate bee-friendly plants. These could even be stretches of grass outside public buildings, such as libraries.
- Preserve hedgerows and trees
for bees and other wildlife. Read more
about the importance of trees and hedgerows for bees.
- Link up with other councils in neighbouring districts to share ideas and increase pollinator range.
- Identify and protect
areas where vulnerable species of bees and other pollinators exist.
Red-tailed bumble bee - Bombus lapidarius male on hemp agrimony.
- Cease the use of insecticides if currently using them on planting schemes lawns and public spaces. Adopt an organic policy for sourcing and growing plants for their planting schemes.
- Councils are in an excellent position to
encourage local businesses to participate in creating bee-friendly spaces where
We play a part in this...
fact that wildflower verges trap litter more easily than
neatly mown ones. The sight of litter can cause the public to phone in
and complain. Anything you can do (such as speaking to your school and
the local radio station) to discourage litter throwing will be a real
Also, give positive feedback for the positive actions your council do take, and asking others to do the same.
How can councils help bees with regard to educational resources?
One of the simplest ways is by providing educational
materials and resources on the council website, not only for schools, but also for members of the public
and even businesses to download.
Generally, there is no need for councils
reinvent the wheel on this, because there is so much information
Bumble bee on Scabiousa.
The role councils could
play might be to research various sources of information, and offer
links in one
place (i.e. the council website) to some of the many resources
Councils could also
encourage and help schools to create pollinator gardens and bee gardens (see this further information about creating a bee garden). Budget permitting, perhaps they could distribute packets of wildflower seeds to schools?
I’m sure you can think of more ways in which councils can
help bees! Together, we really do make a
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