As I drift from sleep to wakefulness each morning I put the radio on to hear the latest news. It’s not been much fun recently, between the Libyan crisis and the Japanese nuclear issues, spending cuts and murders – although as an avid Liverpool supporter I was very happy to hear about how we thrashed Manchester City!

Then I was suddenly awake, listening to a man from Buglife, a UK conservation trust for invertebrates, talking about plans for a Bee Road.

We’ve lost over 97% of our wildflower meadows in the UK since the 1930’s, and the honeybee population has halved in the last 25 years. Its not just bees, either – populations of butterflies, moths, other pollinating insects are all declining. We rely on these invertebrates to pollinate the vast majority of our fresh fruit and veg, so this is not just an issue for the lunatic green fringe or the avid wildlife enthusiast. Habitat destruction has made it harder and harder for pollinators to move around and colonise new areas. For once, someone – lots of someones – are making a serious effort to do something about it.

Backed by a £60,000 grant from Co-Operative (my bank, I’m proud to say – not a common phrase these days) Buglife are launching a pilot scheme in Yorkshire. They are encouraging local landowners across Yorkshire to create wildflower meadows, which in turn will create “Bee Roads” running north to south and east to west across the county. They hope to demonstrate that providing rich – and continuously connected – wildlife habitats will in turn lead to an increase in pollinator populations. Using plants such as Lesser Knapweed, Field Scabious, Birdsfoot Trefoil and Red Clover, the long term goal is for Bee Roads to cross the length and breadth of the country. Finally, a piece of good news unrelated to football!

I know that as gardeners we can play our part in supporting wildlife in general, and pollinators in particular. But this kind of scheme, assuming they can reach agreement with the landowners to make the large meadows link up effectively, could make a huge difference country wide. So I am choosing to be optimistic about this particular piece of human endeavour – and am sharing my optimism in a post because Diana@Elephant’s Eye said I should ;-)

You can read more about the scheme on the Co-Operative website and most of the UK online newspapers and news sites are carrying some version of the press release now. Another reason to make Yorkshire a possible next destination for our household?!

45 thoughts on “Why bees might be moving to Yorkshire…

  1. I’d be disgusted to think of any land owners not already participating in this, after all Bees and their importance have been big news now for at least 3/4 years, along with the bursaries to farmers from the government to leave wildlife edges in their fields, you really need to have your head in the sand not to have heard of wildflower planting… However, it’s always a very good and timely reminder to get people participating.
    Near us we have wildflower strips along major roads, but imo it isn’t enough, as it’s only around 2m wide and there are huge swaths of derelict ground that could very easily be planted full of seeds.

    I feel some gorilla gardening coming on! :D

    You see, Yorkshire is the bestested!!!!! Hurrah.

    1. So you like living in Yorkshire then?!

      I suspect the problems will arise when a landowner is asked to change the use of currently profitable land and turn it in to wild flowers instead because that is where the road needs to go. If it were a motorway there would be a complusory buy-out – can’t see it happening for the bees somehow…

  2. HAHA, did I really just type gorilla gardening???!!!

    I blame the essays, they’re sending me wappy. Not at all embarrassed… ;)

    1. :-) Essay-writing is enough to make anyone want to go a little ape…

  3. You wouldn’t be disappointed with Yorkshire, we have some wonderful places here. Even though the border in my back garden is very small, I created it with wildlife in mind and used native flowers to plant it up, as well as installing a (very) small pond. It’s definitely attracted more bees, butterflies, insects etc, to the garden, so if my small effort has paid off you can only imagine what a ‘bee road’ would do.

    1. Hi Jo, we’ve got relatives in Yorkshire, so the pull is already considerable, plus all that lovely countryside. I went to Uni in Manchester and then Liverpool, and still miss the (comparative) friendliness of folk up there. My only issue is that I would dearly love to live close to the sea, and I wasn’t thinking North Sea – brrr….

      Good for you on the pond and native planting – I’ve been paying much more attention to attracting pollinators recently and have really noticed the difference. MIL doesn’t entirely approve, she doesn’t like large stripy buzzing critters, but I will train her!

  4. Sounds like a very laudable scheme. If I were “in Government” I would make it compulsory to grow flowers on all our Motorway banks and verges. We have so much spare open space devoted to these, and a small investment in wildflower seeds could make a huge difference, don’t you think?

  5. Well you know I am absolutely ecstatic about this…what a fab idea and I can see the hills and dales of Yorkshire with ribbons of color…I love my meadow and credit it for bringing the wildlife to my gardens….I had not realized so much of your wildflowers were gone…

    1. Hi Donna, I thought this would make you smile! The loss of wild flower meadow environment due to intensive farming and house building is tragic – and something we will live to regret if we don’t do something about it soon.

      1. Absolutely and what has happened here in the States as well to drive the pollinators out…although we have also been abusing chemicals which has also led to pollinator decline…all this is why I built a house where I did so I had a forever green area, trees and space for a small meadow…can’t wait to see the efforts from this initiative…thanks for telling us about this great idea

  6. That’s great news Janet. I wish we could hear more positive news on the radio. It’s always so negative, I often just turn it off.

    1. I know exactly what you mean Marguerite – hence me suddenly waking up when I heard this! Though I had to double check on the internet in case I had been dreaming…

  7. How wonderful. I hope the project grows and more land owners will join in. To create more meadows, more flowers, more bees….it is for our survival! Great project.

    1. Isn’t it? I think Mark’s idea that we should plant up the motorway verges with wildflowers is a good one too. Make it a community service project, use people who have been done for petty crimes to prettify the road network!

  8. Any effort is a step in the right direction. Hopefully this will make a difference creating the meadows. I design gardens to encourage pollinators, but it is never enough. In my own garden I noticed a decrease in bees in the years prior, but last year noticed the bees were back. No reason was found, but they returned in great numbers. I am hoping to see it again this year too. Many of our commercial projects are now planted with wildflowers on land that would normally be expanses of grass. It is a small effort, but worthy none the less.

    1. How wonderful that you have commercial projects that use wildflowers Donna. I think the practice is spreading here too, with the so-called pictorial meadows, something I would love to try. I know that planting flowers alone is not the solution to the bee issue, but it has to help – and there are all the other pollinators to think of too.

  9. A very good idea. I attended a talk from a local bee-farmer last night which was fascinating, I had no idea of the complexities of the subject. A lot of money seems to piling into research to combat the mite problem and he was hopeful we’ll see a solution in the next few years. Something like every 3rd mouthful of our food relies on bee pollination so we need their populations to strengthen again.

    1. That sounds fascinating Damo – a good friend of mine keeps bees, and knows an awesome amount of really quite esoteric stuff. I’d heard the one in three statistic too, so I hope he is right about the mite solution coming soon.

  10. When we first moved to Italy, the quantity of wild flowers growing almost everywhere blew us away. I think, luckily, the farmers are too mean to use very much herbecide. I sawthe first poppies on Friday and already, now there are lots. Everything that can be done should be done and gardeners can do a considerable amount. Each garden may be small but addd them together and it constitutes a vast amount of land. Good for Yorkshie!

    1. We will have lots of poppies up at the allotment site too, but increasingly the wildflowers are becoming a rarity – apart from cow parsley. I agree that gardens make a huge difference and can create their own wildlife corridors, everything helps. I do hope the project goes nation wide.

  11. As another Yorkshire lass any bee arriving in our parts will be most welcome.
    I notice along the M1 we have a ribbon of dandelions growing just along the roadside. It is literally a ribbon of yellow for as far as the eye can see in parts.
    We grow flowers on our plot and in our garden that are bee friendly and they don’t have to be native just don’t choose pollen free sunflowers or double daisies. Bees were very busy pollinating our fruit blossom last weekend.

    1. Hi Sue, rivers of dandelions can look beautiful, but I’m not such a fan of the carpet of gold we have at the allotment site at the moment! I tend to concentrate on growing single flowers nowadays, partly for aesthetics but mainly for the pollinators. I have loads of Dahlia “Bishop’s Children” waiting to be planted up at the plot becacuse they are meant to be excellent for pollinators, as well as comos, sweet peas, marigolds, verbena, cornflowers and anything else that I can’t find room for in the back garden. We have bee hives close to the plot so making our buzzy neghbours happy makes sense. The fruit trees on the plot and the community orchard nearby certainly appreciate them!

      1. I’m afraid lovely as they look I don’t tolerate dandelions on the plot or in the garden but everything in iys palce!

        1. We’ve been pulling the heads off ours, but then I look around at the rivers of gold in the main paths and on other plots, and realise it is a bit of a hopeless endeavour!

  12. Thanks for the information Plantylicious. I read about this in the paper yesterday and I was going to do a blog on it but you beat me to it! The Bee’s are thriving in our garden at the moment and I purposefully Plant Bee and insect friendly plants as I love to hear them busying themselves around me. Bee Roads are a great idea, let’s hope they don’t all move there though!

    1. Sorry to have stolen your thunder ;-) I think if we gardeners carry on growing lots of bee-friendly plants we will hold on to a few, though one can see Yorkshire becoming the sort-after location for all pollinators if this project is a success! We’ll just have to make sure it goes nation wide… Thanks for dropping by!

  13. It is amazing that with 97% of the wildflower meadows gone that the honeybee population has only halved. Wildflower meadows are so gorgeous and necessary. I am thrilled to read about this new initiative. In my state of Georgia the government plants wildflowers in the mediums along roads and highways…the citizens voted monies toward this many years ago.

    1. Hi Karin, the State of Georgia – and its population – sounds very enlightened! In the current climate of cuts and job losses I can’t see any government-backed initiatives starting any time soon, but at least something is happening. Ironic that it is backed by a bank…

    1. It is nice to be celebrating something so positive for once. Thanks for prompting me to post about it! I’m not sure I would have done otherwise…

    1. Isn’t it great? We were over due for a good news story. I love it up North – though not so keen on the shorter growing season, for that I’d like to live in Devon…

  14. I am glad to hear that there are projects like this underway. I have noted that there seems to be a good deal of concern recently expressed by gardeners worldwide about declining populations of insects and pollinators. I find this a hopeful sign and hope that the decline can be reversed.

    1. We gardeners certainly have our part to play – but I am delighted to see a more coordinated project under way, with big name sponsors. Now if we can only get our motorway verges sown with wildflowers…

  15. I read an article about this a few days ago on BBC News. I think it’s a fabulous idea. When I was still living in England…umpteen moons ago…I remember the awareness being raised about the destruction of the hedgerows at that time. I hadn’t really thought about the meadow loss as well. That 97% of the meadows have been lost in less than a century is simply appalling. I spent a lot of time around Yorkshire as a youngster, and one side of my family is originally from Wensleydale. I think it will be exciting to see so many wildflowers growing in that region, and a wonderful boon for the bees!

    1. It is a fabulous idea isn’t it! You can be justifiably proud of your Yorkshire heritage, they are being pioneers. I hope it spreads!

  16. Our local university does a lot of bee research, and last year some friends and I visited their pollinatarium which provides education to the public on all pollinators. The guide there mentioned this need for “roads” or pathways for bees to follow. I’d never thought of that before–sounds like a great plan Buglife has; I hope many people get involved.

    1. It makes sense when you come to think about it, doesn’t it. The pollinatarium sounds like a wonderful idea.

  17. What a brilliant idea – and why not spread it further afield immediately (but then I would say that, as a keen meadow-wildflowery-person)… It’s surprising how rarely I see bees in my garden. I know a local beekeeper, wonder if he needs somewhere accessible to put another hive?

    1. Hi Kate. Hive-hosting – now there’s an idea! Though I think I’d want a larger garden than I currently have… I only ever see bees in ones and twos, but get loads of hoverflies. Mind you, there are beehives up near the allotment site which is an added bonus.

  18. Brilliant news, I hope it happens. I’m all for gardening with wildlife in mind and I like Mark’s idea too.

    1. Isn’t it! I hope by next year we will be reading about the success of the first flowers, though I imagine such a venture, demanding so much co-operation between different landowners, will be a while getting going.

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