United front to tackle pollinator declines

Photo: Plymouth University/PA Wire.
Photo: Plymouth University/PA Wire.
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Steps that everyone can take to aid the revival of vital pollinators are being promoted ahead of an MPs’ report on the issue which is set to be published on Monday.

Environment Minister Lord de Mauley, speaking at a conference earlier this week, outlined five actions to help pollinators such as planting more bee-friendly flowers and cutting grass less often to protect the contribution that the insects make to the economy.

And the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee plans to address the issue on Monday when it publishes a report detailing its own recommendations for a national pollinator strategy. The strategy is being drawn up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and is due to be published in the Autumn.

Lord de Mauley was joined at this week’s conference by environmental charities Plantlife, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and The Wildlife Trusts to issue a united call to action to encourage people to do what they can at home to help insects such bees and butterflies.

The five actions people are urged to adopt to support pollinators were drawn up with experts from Natural England, the Food and Environment Research Agency, conservation charities and the research community. They are: grow more nectar and pollen rich flowers, shrubs and trees; leave patches of land to grow wild; cut grass less often; avoid disturbing or destroying nesting or hibernating insects, and think carefully about whether to use pesticides.

The Environment Minister said: “Pollinators such as bees are vital to the environment and the economy and I want to make sure that we do all we can to safeguard them. That’s why we are encouraging everyone to take a few simple actions and play their part in helping protect our bees and butterflies.”

Pollinators ensure that crops like raspberries, apples and pears flourish as they are particularly reliant on insect pollination to produce strong yields of high quality fruit.

Research has estimated that the value of insect pollination to crops stands at around £400 million, owing to increased yields and better quality of seeds and fruit.

There are at least 1,500 species of insect pollinators in the UK, including 26 species of bumble bee, 260 solitary bees, one honey bee species and hundreds of types of hoverflies, butterflies and moths.

Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: “The plight of our bees is high on people’s environmental concerns so it’s great to see government, businesses and communities launching this call to action to protect this iconic species.

“The good news is that everyone can be part of the generation that helps saves our bees, from creating a ‘Bee World’ wildflower patch in your local area to helping scientists monitor bee health by logging any bees you spot with the free Great British Bee Count app.”

National Farmers’ Union vice-president Guy Smith said more than 800 farmers and growers had been aided in adopting pollinator-friendly measures on their land thus year through events delivered with the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

The high-profile commitment to tackle pollinator declines was also supported by Marylyn Haines Evans, chairman of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes public affairs committee, who said: “This is a great foundation for us all to start helping our bees through five practical actions which everyone can get behind. These actions, combined with government leadership, will be vital to get the right framework in place for bee health in the long term. The WI now look forward to seeing the publication of the National Pollinator Strategy in the Autumn.”