Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Make a B-Line for Buglife

Believe it or not, there are over 1500 pollinator species in the UK. Species that help to pollinate include moths, honeybees, beetles, bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies, butterflies and even bats. Pollinators are such a fantastic example of how nature just gets things right, how everything just works in harmony; but sadly, once again, we are the ones standing in the way of nature doing its thing.

Eyed Hawk Moth

So what exactly are pollinators? Well the definition of a pollinator is:

“an animal that causes plants to make fruit or seeds. They do this by moving pollen from one part of the flower of a plant to another part. This pollen then fertilises the plant. Only fertilised plants can make fruit and/or seeds, and without them, the plants cannot reproduce”. 

This definition shows just how important bees and other pollinators are to us. It proves how much we rely on natural eco-systems in the production of food crops across the country.  For starters, one out of every three bites of food we eat is made possible by a pollinator, and 80% of all flowering plants rely on pollinators for survival.  Basically, if the pollinators all die, we won’t be too far behind them.

Imagine now what it would be like if all our towns and cities and villages were not linked together by roads and by rail; travelling would be virtually impossible. We would not be able to reach the amenities we need to survive in this modern age. But sadly, the natural network corridors relied upon by many of the UK’s bees and other pollinators are so badly disjointed, that bees are really struggling.  Our insects are already suffering due to climate change and chemicals such as Neonicotinoids, so the loss of natural corridors is just a step too far in their battle for survival.

I am lucky enough to have contact with two stewardship farms, which both have the most stunning wild flower meadows.

These meadows look stunning, smell amazing and really awaken your senses. But how often do you see places around you with a wildflower meadow? Think hard, in fact you’ll have to think very hard, as there won’t be many. Since the 1930s Britain has lost over 97% (an area the size of Wales) of wildflower rich grassland, therefore action needs to be taken immediately, or it is predicted that between 40 – 70% of our British insect species will go extinct. We must all speak out and action must be taken to enable these insects to disperse and travel across the landscape as they once could.

Our bees, butterflies and hoverflies have suffered badly over the last 50 years due to the rapidly changing landscape which is due to a number of factors including intensive farming, urban spread, and new transport links. However it is also important to note that it isn’t just our well known insect species like bees and butterflies being affected, but a whole array of different invertebrates are also in the firing line.  Two species that have become extinct in the UK since the start of the 21st century are the Cullem’s bumblebee (Bombus cullumanus), which was last recorded in 1941and the Short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus), which was last recorded in 1988.

So, what is being done? There are plenty of organisations out there who care about our British pollinators and insects, who are starting projects to help and protect these species.  One such organisation is Buglife. They have come up with a national solution, which I think is really stepping up to the mark to protect our British pollinators and insects, and this huge, long term project is called B–Lines.

B–Lines’ goal is to create a series of wildflower corridors across the UK to give insects the mobility to move around the country from one wildflower meadow to the next one.  They hope to create and restore at least 150,000 hectares of flower-rich habitat across the UK.  You can follow the progress they make on an interactive map on their website.

Benefits of this project include of course helping to conserve our native pollinators and lots of other species of wildlife, and also helping our wildlife to respond to climate change by enabling them to move around a lot easier.  Of course all these benefits are fantastic, but I think the most important one is the fact that B–Lines helps bring nature to people. It offers everybody the chance to help protect our native insects, and makes more people aware that even the smallest of our wildlife plays an important part in everyone’s lives.  The partnerships that are being formed between land owners, farmers and the general public are so important for this project to work.

Of course not everyone is able to get involved with the bigger projects, but there are things that all of us can do to help. Imagine if every rural and urban garden was brimming with native, pollen laden plants. That would add up to a huge area, increasing the number of stepping stones pollinators need to travel between the remaining wild flower meadows.

We can all do our bit to help pollinators by planting our gardens with native bee-friendly flowers that are rich in pollen and nectar which bees can easily access from spring until late summer. This will ensure that there is a good supply of pollen at all of the crucial times.  Just let your garden grow wild! And what about shared community areas, is there anything you can do to influence the planting of native bee friendly plants in these areas. If you are a land owner, then think about what you could do to help, and please, please get in touch with Buglife.

All our British insect species need protecting, and B–Lines is offering everybody the opportunity to get involved.  It is a brilliant long term project and one I’m sure will succeed if we all get behind it (or even bee-hind it).  A lot of our insects currently go unnoticed, but image if they were not there at all. If that was the case, then I think everybody would start to understand, and miss, the positive impact they have on all our lives.


  1. Excellent post Findlay. We all need to do something to try and reverse the decline of our wildlife.
    Not mowing roadside verges so often would be a good start.

  2. Very good post - 'bugs' get dismiss out of hand by most people, often just after they have eaten an apple or had some jam!!

    Hope all is well.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  3. Excellent blog Findlay. I am a member of Buglife and have learnt a lot from them. We have a large garden with lots of wild areas and pollinating plants and habitats for bees. Must try to analyse which ones we have. My husband is allergic and gets stung by ground nesting bees. He just will not wear gardening gloves unfortunately.

  4. The best blog I have seen this year, brilliant Findlay. We should always look out for them.

  5. This is one of your best posts ever, Finn! You've even got me thinking of replacing my lawn with a mini-flower meadow. I've already stopped the quarterly visits from lawn maintenance people who spread their chemicals. I just have to win over Mrs.P to the cause with the idea of a mini-meadow.

    Best wishes to you and the family - - Richard

    P.S. got a female Hen Harrier three miles up the road from me - been there since November! Hoping for a male to show up!