Agriculture industry could be asked to implement 'bee lanes'

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Written by:   | Posted 23-September-2013 9:27

Farmers are to be asked to volunteer their land as part of a scheme to create a 3,000-mile "bee motorway" of grassland filled with wildflowers.

The plan is to encourage migration across the country rather than having certain insects confined to separate patches of the country, as is the case with some species now.

It is hoped that the "bee lines" would also help butterflies, moths and hover flies to spread their wings and breed across Britain.

The scheme, which has been strongly backed by the Liberal Democrats, is the brainchild of wildlife charity Buglife, which is asking farmers to create the corridors for free, though

some may receive a grant or bursary.

The project comes at a time when the honey bee population of the UK is in steep decline.

Buglife has already begun recruiting landowners in Yorkshire, where it is estimated that 60,000 acres are needed to help the bees thrive.

It is believed that there are only half the number of nectar collecting insects pollinating in the country now, compared to population figures of 25 years ago.

And the decline in bees and other species is not just a worry for insect lovers.

According to farming experts, around 90 per cent of food and crops in our country are thought to be depend on pollinators, of which 60 per cent are in decline.

The causes of this drastic reduction has been put down to factors such as toxic pesticides, habitat loss, disease and intensive agriculture which has meant there is now less wild grassland in which the insects can breed.

Matt Shardlow, chief executive of Buglife, who has already presented plans to the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, said losing our insects could mean losing a major part of our source.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said: "If we lose a lot of our pollinator species, we lose a lot of the options for feeding ourselves. The more we lose the less likely we are to be able to feed ourselves in an efficient way."

Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey is said to be behind the initiative, while Baroness Parminter, a leading Liberal Democrat,  has also lent her backing.

The environment spokeswoman in the House of Lords said: "The Government is putting together a comprehensive strategy for all pollinators, but until we have that, it is important that projects like this are supported."

She added that she was optimistic that farmers would see the advantages of encouraging pollination. The Government is also attempting to bring in measures under reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy that will enable farmers to receive more grants for creating areas that are rich in wildflowers.

For some, the scheme will be little change. Henry Edmunds, who runs the Cholderton Estate in Wiltshire, last year scooped the national RSPB Nature of Farming Award – the first time  outside Scotland or Wales has won the award. His mixed organic farm on the chalk grassland of Salisbury Plain is now officially the UK’s most wildlife-friendly farm, where sheep graze the grass alive with flowers and buzzing with insects – including rare bumblebees, moths and butterflies. He also actively encourages the kind of rare birds the RPSB are set up to protect – corn bunting, lapwing and grey partridge, which thrive among the crops.


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