Public thinks councils should reduce grass-cutting to help save bees

The majority of the public think councils should be doing more to save bees, a Friends of the Earth survey reveals today.

A total of 81% of people polled thought councils should reduce grass-cutting in an effort to let more wildflowers grow to boost pollinator populations, while nearly two thirds (63%) of people said councils should be doing more to protect bees.

The Friends of the Earth and Buglife YouGov survey also revealed 88% support councils reducing the use of bee-harming pesticides while 92% support local authorities in planting more wildflowers and other bee-friendly plants in local parks and community spaces.

The survey is published today on the same day as the Bee Summit which is taking place in central London, and organised by Friends of the Earth and the Women’s Institute.

The event brings together key individuals and bodies to review science of bee decline, review progress on national pollinator strategies, celebrate achievements and identify problem areas.

It will also look at local authorities’ strategies for pollinators.

Cutting less grass would cut council costs

Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett said: “Local councils have a vital part to play in helping the UK’s under-threat bee populations. Policies, such as allowing grass to grow on roadside verges, will help bees, save cash-strapped councils money and are supported by the public too.

“We hope many more councils will stand up for our bees and introduce comprehensive pollinator action plans in the months ahead.”

Grassy verge
Longer grass would cut costs for councils, by Jon Anderson

Dr Paul Evans, Lead Pollinator Advisor at Buglife, said: “We are not advocating abandoning areas of council land but introducing a new less intensive form of grassland management. 

“Effectively cutting grass less in the right places will not only help to counter pollinator decline it will benefit wildlife and people too.”

The move would be good news for cash-strapped local authorities, with councils already saving thousands of pounds every year by reducing grass-cutting.

Burnley Borough Council estimates that savings from meadow management (including reducing grass-cutting to benefit wildlife) are £58,000 per annum – and are expected to increase.  

Join the Great British Bee Count

Dorset County Council also estimates significant savings have been made from wildlife-friendly policies, such as allowing grass to grow. 

Peter Moore, of Dorset County Council, which introduced a pollinator action plan that includes less grass-cutting, said: “Dorset County Council adopted a new strategy for managing highway verges in 2014. We have a more targeted approach to the cutting we do.

“We estimate this has saved us £100,000 over the last 2 years, with a further £50,000 in savings anticipated in 2017-18. 

“A significant amount of this saving is due to reducing the frequency of cutting, showing that pollinator-friendly approaches can save money too.”

Mr Moore, who is Dorset County Council’s Environment Service Director, will address the Bee Summit today.

Bee on wildflower
Councils should adopt action plans to boost pollinator numbers, by Alan Palmer

Councils must develop pollinator action plans

Despite all the publicity about bee decline only a handful of councils – including Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, East Sussex and Bristol – have introduced comprehensive pollinator action plans.  

To help local authorities play their part in boosting bee populations, Buglife and Friends of the Earth have produced a new guide on the measures they can take to help pollinators.

‘Helping Pollinators Locally – Developing a Local Pollinator Action Plan’ is published today at the Bee Summit.

It spells out some of the policies councils could adopt, including: 

  • Using the planning system to protect and increase pollinator-friendly habitat.
  • Managing council-owned or council-managed land to benefit pollinators including: cutting areas of grass in parks and roadside verges less often to allow wild flowers to grow.
  • Reducing the use of bee-harming pesticides; planting more wildflowers and other bee-friendly plants in local parks and community spaces.
  • Raising awareness and encouraging others to act by working with schools, businesses, local communities and individuals to help develop flower-rich environments.

How you can help save the bees

Since 1900, the UK has lost 20 species of bee, and a further 35 are considered under threat of extinction. None are protected by law. Across Europe nearly 1 in 10 wild bee species face extinction.

So it’s vital we better understand how they’re doing across the country. You can help by counting and recording all the bees you see this summer with our free app.

Join The Great British Bee Count – an initiative organised by Friends of the Earth, supported by Buglife and sponsored by Waitrose – which is taking place from 19 May to 30 June.  

Sigh up now to be the first to download the Great British Bee Count app on 19 May.

Join the Great British Bee Count

Wildflowers