Dr Fred Ayres from the Lune Valley Beekeepers invites you to create a pollinator patch in this week’s column.
Around 60% of all the crops we eat depend on insect pollination and, according to Defra, by pollinating food crops, the contribution they make to the country’s economy is worth over £600m annually. However, the populations of pollinating insects have been declining by around 25% per annum for many years now.
The principal reasons for the decline are:
the increasing use of weedkillers and pesticides
the destruction of habitats through the regular mowing of grass on verges and amenity spaces by local authorities, on industrial estates and on private lawns
changes in agricultural practice
So, what can be done to address this?
Six years ago, Lune Valley Beekeepers started working with a number of voluntary organisations and community groups to create pollinator patches. Essentially these are patches of unused land on which native wildflowers can be grown. Preparation is simple. The land needs to be cleared of all weeds and the top soil scraped off as native wildflowers do not thrive in rich soil. Seed can be planted in late March or early April and the results should show around late June or early July.
Maintenance is not difficult either. In autumn, after the flower seed has set and dropped, the patch should be closely mown and the cuttings collected and removed. This should be repeated again in early spring.
Whilst each individual patch makes a contribution to the recovery of pollinating insects, the contribution is greatly enhanced if the patches are not more than 500 metres apart. This enables the insects to pollinate over a much greater area and avoids the possibility of inbreeding.
Our initial idea was to create the Lune Valley Pollinator Corridor, a chain of pollinator patches stretching from Heysham to Kirkby Lonsdale. In the years before the pandemic, we supported the creation of over 40 patches.
At the same time Bug Life, a national charity, launched a highly ambitious scheme to create a series of pollinator corridors running across the country. One of these, being organised by the Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust, was to run from Lancaster to Leeds and we readily agreed to be part of this bigger plan. The covid pandemic slowed the project down somewhat but progress continues to be made.
Now that the pandemic is over, we are keen to continue this project and would like to hear from groups or individuals interested in taking part.
For further information visit: www.lunevalleybeekeepers.co.uk
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org