Taking action to protect bees!


Last week in Wheldrake Ward we wildflower sowed 7000 square metres of verge on the approach to Wheldrake from Escrick. A big thank you to the volunteers, from the village and from the Nature Reserve team at Wheldrake Ings, who all helped to prepare the ground and sow the seed. We are looking forward to new summer flowers and loads more bees.

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Extending this programme across York will contribute to the national B-line programme. 

As chair of the Climate Change Committee on the city council, I have been involved with shaping the pollinator strategy that has just been approved by the administration. 

Everyone knows by of the threat to wildlife in general and to bees in particular. I am delighted that the city council has adopted a pollinators strategy. Here is what I said to the executive while introducing the strategy earlier this month. 

"Pollinators does not refer simply to bees, a whole variety of insects play a part in pollinating. 

There are two key areas for the strategy: parks and planted areas in the city, and verges and other wild and open spaces. 

On our rural road network grass dominates all our verges. But over 90% of the verge cutting that goes on is not done by the council or its contractors, it’s done by members of the public: residents, farmers and other landowners. 

People don’t cut the verges specifically to make it impossible for wildflowers to thrive; I think they do it because they want to keep nature ‘tidy’. But nature doesn’t need ‘tidy’. The impact is devastating for biodiversity. Verges are often cut before wildflowers are in full bloom or before they set seed. The result is a monoculture desert of grass. The rotting grass enriches the soil and kills wildflower plants. 

We need to work with people across the city to educate and inform and to ensure that this damage ceases. It doesn’t only kill bees and pollinators; huge numbers of other insects, invertebrates, birds and mammals lose their habitats and food sources and die in this cut grass monoculture. And we humans too depend on pollinators for our food. Our new strategy will help turn this around. 

Within the city too, the strategy brings changes. We will use only bedding plants that provide forage for pollinators and ban the council use of neonicotinoids in any form.  All good.

There is one other issue. Suction flailing. This isn’t a medieval torture machine but a way of removing the arisings generated by mowing. Important because wildflowers need the soil to be kept poor in nutrients. 

This would be a wise investment because those collected arisings from across York could feed a biodigestor to produce biogas to generate energy. A suction flailer will pay for itself. With biogas plants close to the city, finding a buyer for our verge arisings would be easy. 

And we have potential partners. Our Internal Drainage Board manages 264 miles of watercourses around York. They generate a lot of green waste which, like ours, could be feeding a biogas plant and generating money. I have raised this issue with them. It met with a positive response. 

In conclusion, I am happy to support the pollinator strategy to protect our natural world. Let’s Bee Busy!

Councillor Christian Vassie


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