Alarming decrease in wild pollinators, many species endangered
Our wild pollinating insect populations (wild bees, hoverflies, and butterflies) are in distress. There are around 20,000 different species of wild bees worldwide, of which around 2000 species live in Europe! A global study by IPBES from 2016 showed that wild pollinators have declined in occurrence and diversity at local and regional scales in North West Europe and North America. In Europe for example, 9 per cent of the bee and butterfly species are endangered and 37 per cent of the bee populations and 31 per cent of the butterfly populations are declining.
Today, many people take initiatives to support the conditions for pollinators. They grow more flowers in their gardens or install bee hotels. Even such small measures soon attract more bees, butterflies, and hoverflies to the garden. Besides that, a more natural garden offers additional benefits (see text box).
Small, local measures for pollinators are important, of course, but a real difference can be made when more people and organisations take measures across a larger area. More and diverse measures can eventually result in a landscape where wild pollinators find a sustainable habitat – a so-called Bee Landscape.
Download a brochure to use this information offline: What can you do? (A4, pdf, 3.2 MB)
A natural garden is not just great for wild bees, other insects, and birds, you yourself will soon experience the other benefits as well:
• Fewer puddles; improved water drainage;
• A natural garden is more comfortable (less hot) during hot summer spells;
• It offers health benefits:
- A green environment reduces stress;
- It is beneficial for child development;
- It stimulates to be more physically active;
- It contributes to a sense of meaning and a sustainable lifestyle. And also good to know: wild bees are not aggressive (as wasps can be) and generally don’t sting.
A neighbourhood with many natural gardens and a nature-inclusive public green space maintenance policy results in other additional benefits:
• Reduced flooding in the streets during heavy rains;
• Lower temperatures during hot spells in summer;
• Less or reduced infestations of other insects such as the oak processionary caterpillar thanks to the presence of their predators;
• A flowering, green environment is always more inviting (walking/cycling trips).
Nobody can turn the current landscape into a bee landscape single-handedly. It requires strong collaborations between civilians, organisations, public authorities, and businesses. All these parties can learn from each other and measures can be coordinated and aligned to safeguard their effectiveness. This will certainly increase the impact on our endangered pollinators!
Illustration: Natasha Sena - Clasp Visuals
A ‘Connected Landscape’ is a ribbon of flower borders with, here and there, nesting places in e.g. stepping stones, and which connects different pollinator ‘bed & breakfast’ areas.
Small, flower-rich ‘Bee Fuel Stations’ are spots where pollinators can quite literally refuel (forage: pollen and nectar) as they look for a new habitat.
A ‘Bee landscape’ stimulates a dense and diverse pollinating insect population. It includes at least one bed & breakfast area. A bee landscape is also a collaborative partnership of multiple parties.
A ‘Bed & Breakfast area’ is what we call a robust and more or less connected living environment where a broad range of pollinating insect species can live sustainably.
By planting indigenous plants, shrubs,
It is best to plant species that also grow naturally in your selected area as the locally occurring pollinating insects are adjusted to these food sources. Cultivated species that usually grow elsewhere are often of less value to our local pollinators.
By ensuring that you have flowering plants from March to late October
All species of bees, hoverflies, and butterflies have their specific flying season in which they need to forage for nectar and pollen. Many of them are also specific when it comes to the type of flowers they forage from. Therefore, it is important to include many different types of flowers. Flowering plants in sunny spots are even more attractive to wild pollinators.
By creating tranquil spots within the garden
Leave dead leaves and stems of garden plants uncut/untrimmed until spring, and even keep several spots untouched. Pollinating insects find their nesting or wintering options in such spots.
By adding extra measures for pollinators
• Add a bee hotel. Wild bees like to nest in bee hotels and it is also great fun to watch their activities up close.
• Pollinators also need water. If possible, you may want to create a (small) pond or place a water bowl with some small rocks or a water ornament.
By not using chemical agents in your garden
Chemical agents, also those that are not used for getting rid of insects, are harmful to wild pollinators. So avoid using such agents at all costs.
By being a green source of inspiration
A garden teeming with plants, flowers, and butterflies is any gardener’s pride and joy. It also often becomes a source of inspiration and ideas for neighbours and visiting family and friends.
The company E-Fiber installed optical fibre networks in many of the Dutch municipalities. One of the company’s goals is sustainable and responsible entrepreneurship. Outside built-up areas, trenches are dug in road verges into which the optical fibre cables are placed. After the installation, the replaced soil is always seeded with grass.
In 2020, the installation of the new optical fibre network was scheduled for several municipalities in West-Brabant in The Netherlands. As it happened, many of the public authorities, businesses, and organisations had joined hands in the West-Brabant Bee Landscape. Naturally, the network partners saw a golden opportunity: seeding the refilled road verges with flowering herbs instead of regular grass seed would add long ribbons of forage habitats for pollinators!
The bee landscape network quickly contacted E-Fiber and the company responded very enthusiastically. E-Fiber joined the bee landscape and instantly took action. It changed its own policy and conditions, so now they seed road verges with a mix of red and white clover wherever they work. This choice was perfect because these indigenous herbs offer lots of food for wild pollinators, the seeds can be sown all year round, and clovers also prevent the growth of creeping thistles.
The result: a food habitat ribbon for pollinating insects of no less than 500 km by 2021! And for 2022, another 500 km of flower-rich road verges are scheduled.
This great example shows how a new optical fibre network for residents also becomes a food habitat network for wild bees and other pollinators. A wonderful win-win situation at hardly any additional costs!
Tree driplines in Bennekom (photo: Nynke Groendijk)
The Bee Landscape Road Map describes
success factors for the development of a bee landscape. One of the key factors in this is ensuring balanced development of the four ‘returns’ a bee landscape offers. Businesses may consider the activities listed below:
Red-tailed bumblebee (photo: Menno Reemer)
Blue mason bee (photo: Menno Reemer)
Danubian miner (photo: Menno Reemer)
Common carder bee (photo: David Kleijn)
A Bee Landscape Road Map and an accompanying manual have been developed for
citizens wishing to get started on developing
a bee landscape. These tools can help new bee landscapes in the process of building up an effective social network and developing a sustainable landscape where pollinators can thrive. For existing bee landscapes and bee initiatives, these tools can help to assess and improve the development progress. Over the past years, a lot of knowledge on pollinators has also been collected and made available for people and organisations wishing to help improve the living conditions for bees and other pollinators:
The assessment report of the intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services on pollinators, pollination and food production. S.G. Potts, V. L. Imperatriz-Fonseca, and Ngo H. T. (eds.).
FAO's Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture
EU pollinator Information hive Interesting subpages:
Member States’ initiatives to support wild pollinator populations
Get involved: a series of technical guidance with recommendations for action for citizens, invasive alien species managers, local authorities and cities, farmers, businesses and public authorities.