Seeking inspiration for ways to make plots a perfect home for pollinators? Then look no further than the buzzing Welsh town of Monmouth, which is officially the UK’s first Bee Town.
Monmouth Town Council, charity Bees for Development and Monmouthshire County Council, engaged in a swarm of activity, bringing in measures to boost biodiversity and transform the town into the most bee-friendly environment in the UK.
The seeds of success were sown in 2019 when Monmouthshire’s ‘Nature Isn’t Neat’ campaign sparked action to lure pollinators, including changes to the mowing of green spaces and verges that allowed wildflowers to thrive and act as a magnet for insects, bees and butterflies.
Less mowing, more bees!
Director of Bees for Development, Nicola Bradbear, said the Bee Town title “brings Monmouth identity and recognition”. Nicola told Candide: “There are many bee-focused organisations based around Monmouth, and we thought it was appropriate for Monmouth to be named Monmouth Bee Town in recognition. Bees for Development, the bee charity focused on achieving poverty alleviation while maintaining biodiversity, is based in Monmouth, and we have Bee-Friendly Monmouthshire, a campaign for less mowing, better hedgerow management and less pesticide use.”
The region is home to a high density of bee-keepers and will host its annual Bee Festival on 1st August 2021. Nicola added: “During the festival, some bee-friendly gardeners will be opening their gardens to the public.”
At Monmouth Town Council, councillor Anthea Dewhurst explained how locals had expressed support for pollinator-friendly planting as they returned to the town centre after lockdown. Anthea explained: “There was an outcry when bedding plants were suggested for containers. Some residents want to maintain the town's commitment to pollinator-friendly perennials.”
Bees for Development encourages gardeners to look out for plants that carry the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Plants for Pollinators’ logo. The RHS list is extensive but includes garden favourites such as Foxglove, Poppy, Heather, Roses, Allium, Lavender and Rudbeckia.
Monmouth garden design expert Cheryl Cummings pointed out: “Humans like a manicured garden appearance, but that isn't what nature thrives on. What we might see as a patch of weeds, pollinating insects including bees see as a banquet; food that’s vital to their survival.”
Cheryl added: “There are over 250 species of solitary bees and 25 bumblebee species in the UK beside honey bees. They are more valuable as pollinators than honey bees because of the way they collect pollen. All different species of bee are important as pollinators – they don't all feed from the same plants, which is why we need a variety of species in gardens and public spaces.”
Why plant for pollinators?
Our gardens are a refuge for pollinators in a world where bee populations are in freefall. According to the United Nations (UN), bees are under threat due to human activities such as intensive farming, pesticide use, cultivation of mono-crops and climate change.
The UN claims that nearly 90 per cent of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend entirely or in part on animal pollination – along with more than three-quarters of the world’s food crops. Yet, close to 35 per cent of invertebrate pollinators, in particular bees and butterflies, are said to face the threat of extinction globally. A report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) claimed: “Some 84 per cent of crops grown for human consumption need bees or insects to pollinate them to increase their yields and quality.”
Browse the collection of pollinator-friendly plants:
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