We all know that the declining bee populations is a problem and there have been efforts to bring them back. However, the pandemic and lockdown bring good news for them. Their populations and rare wildflowers’ could start to recover since fewer people now cut the roadside verges.
A lot of plant species have turned roadside verges as one of the last refuges because they’ve been devastated by the conversion of natural meadows into farmland and housing estates. These narrow strips of grassland are home to 700 species of wildflowers in the UK.
Sadly, local councils mow the roadsides each spring, undermining their potential role as conservation areas. This resulted in plants disappearing because they’re cut before they can flower and seed, leading to a decline of those wildflowers which the bees need.
But since there’s a pandemic and other priorities going on, a lot of people believe that these plants will grow back without a problem because several councils are redistributing resources to other activities.
Flintshire, Lincolnshire, Newcastle, Norfolk and Somerset are among the growing number of councils that are scaling back or delaying their verge mowing operations. Some local authorities, such as Devon, had already begun to accept that this should be done later and less frequently.
Trevor Dines, a botanical specialist, said this could be a silver lining to the coronavirus crisis. “It’s a real opportunity for verges to flower again, some for the first time. If the lockdown ends in late May, drivers will see great swaths of oxeye daisies and ladies bedstraw.”
Dines added that even though grass near junctions and sight lines needs trimming for safety reasons, most stretches of road can be left until much later in the year so that motorists can see the benefits outweigh the risks. “Our message to councils is that if you haven’t cut verges until now then leave them until August and gauge the response from the public,” he said.
Kate Petty, the group’s road verge campaign manager, said that this pandemic could actually help to shift opinion and policies with long-term benefits for threatened species such as wood-calamint.
“The fix is startlingly straightforward. Simply cutting verges less and later will save plants, money and reduce emissions. We need to rewild ourselves and accept nature’s wonderful ‘messiness’,” she said.
As a beekeeper, Dines said that the less frequent verge-mowing activities would help other species that depend on wildflowers. “This will certainly be good for pollinators. Last year, we already saw improvement in the areas where councils were cutting less. I had my best ever year for honey,”
“It’s also good for mental health. People are desperate for wildlife and colour right now. Let’s see what the public response is. For lots of commuters, myself included, verges are the only chance to see wild plants,” said Dines.
It’s not that much and so far this is only a prediction. However, I agree with Dines and everybody else that believes in the chance of bee populations resurgence everywhere during this pandemic.
Mechanical pollination instead of bees
Because bees are declining, humanity is trying to find ways to pollinate. On one hand, it shows how far we’ve come in agricultural technology. On the other hand, we now have to give extra efforts because the natural, free ones are disappearing, and one of the causes is agriculture.
In one Israeli community, farmers who have seen the global drop of bee populations have tried out a new method of pollinating their crops. In the area of Tel Arad in a desert plain in southern Israel, a tractor pulled a mast equipped with about a dozen small cannons that fired precise shots of pollen at the trees, enabling them to fertilize.
If only the natural pollinators like bees were given spaces to grow and thrive, this wouldn’t happen. Intensive agriculture, the use of pesticides, and climate change have all contributed to their decline, and now the agricultural industry is affected. Which is quite ironic, I think.
The decline of the bee population has worried groups like the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization as it looks to fight hunger in the growing human population. “We see a crisis in 15 years where we don’t have enough insects in the world to actually do pollination and most of our vitamins and fruits are gone,” said Eylam Ran, CEO of Edete Precision Technologies for Agriculture.
While his company stated that the artificial pollinator can eventually replace bees and the system mirrors the work of bees, I personally believe that the natural ones are better. And as I mentioned before, why all these technologies and gadgets if there are the natural and free ones? And where would we get our delicious honey from if we turn to rely on machines?
Turning your backyard into a bee paradise
The future for bees is scary. While we still can, I think we all need to keep striving to bring back bee populations. And since everything is rather cleaner now because of the lockdown and self isolation, turning our backyards into bee paradise, letting them prosper there is a good step to reaching that goal.
FYI, recent studies reveal that insect numbers are remarkably low, with monarch and rusty-patched bumblebee populations both down nearly 90% in the last 20 years. Overall, the arthropod population on Earth is down 45% from pre-industrial numbers.
If we let those insects die out, everything will be in chaos. Birds and fish can’t eat; portions of our food supply go unpollinated; entire ecosystems are at risk. It’s just how nature works and we need to keep it that way. According to The Guardian, here’s how you can turn your backyards into these pollinators’ safe haven.
See the plants you have which are already growing and beneficial like elderberry bushes, beautyberry bushes, pokeweed, native oak, pine and sweet gum. If you have those, keep growing them.
Then, you need to know both invasive and native species of plants or other insects/pollinators. After that, consider which species you need to remove first (the invasive ones, that is). Contact your local botanist and do your own research about native/invasive species.
Don’t use pesticide and herbicide because both are harmful for the bugs and the plants. Mow your backyard as least frequently as possible. Also, look at your neighbors. See if your neighbors have outdoor cats or use lawn poisons. I absolutely love cats and I have my own baby cat, but I fully realize they can cause damage to the wildlife.
Plant wildflowers as well and put up bird feeders in your backyard (because birds are also pollinators). However, if your yard has a lot of plants that could feed the birds, skip the bird feeder.
Hope this helps and you’ll see more pollinators as well as native plants in your backyard. Good luck!