How Can Councils Help Bees?

Bumble bee and hover fly on thistle.Bumble bee and hover fly on thistle.

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 local areas. 

So why not ask your council to help bees and pollinators?

Burnet moths on rosebay willowherb.Burnet moths on rosebay willowherb.

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!

Bumble bee on knapweed.Bumble bee on knapweed.

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.  

We are 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).

Comma butterfly on old man's beard.Comma butterfly on old man's beard.

How Can Councils Help Bees And Other Pollinators?

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!

Ashy mining bee on dandelion.Ashy mining bee on dandelion.

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) must implement.  

  • 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. 

    Having 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 heaven! 

    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.

Bumble bee on hemp agrimony.Bumble bee 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 possible.

Honey bee on wild geranium.Honey bee on wild geranium.

We play a part in this...

It's a 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 help. 

Also, give positive feedback for the positive actions your council do take, and asking others to do the same.

Bumble bee on clover.Bumble bee on clover.

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 to reinvent the wheel on this, because there is so much information available on the internet. 

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 available.

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 difference!

Go back  to Home page