Pollinator Parks

If you’ve visited the BIC recently, you may have spotted our Pollinator Park just behind the Jupiter Centre which we created earlier in the spring. The project was led by one of our tenants Sharon Lashley from Climate Action North and saw volunteers planting ‘pollinator friendly’ wildflowers on a meadow lawn area.

Here Sharon talks about the project and answers your questions about the importance of this new space.

What is a Pollinator Park?

Pollinator Parks is an initiative set up by community interest company Climate Action North run by myself and Jennifer Clair Robson. The initiative aims to “Rewild the North’s Business Parks”.

What is rewilding?

Rewilding means to restore and protect natural processes and wildlife areas and provide connectivity between such areas to protect keystone species. In rewilding the north’s business parks we aim to join up the green areas and create safe and wild gardens to help essential pollinators such as bees, wasps, butterflies, hoverflies and even moths.

Why is rewilding important and what impact does it have on the economy?

Pollinators and in particular bees have an absolutely essential role to play in the food chain. In the UK alone their services are worth around £691 million a year in terms of the value of the crops they pollinate. It would cost the UK at least £1.8 billion a year to employ people to do the work of pollinators – bees do this for free! We need to ensure bees have sufficient wildflowers to carry out their work by providing them with lots of areas full of a diverse range of nectar rich flowers.

Where did the idea come from and why the BIC?

I had the idea when driving through a business park one day and saw a bee and, in the absence of flowers wondered where that bee could land. Myself and Jennifer, as Climate Action North then developed ‘Pollinator Parks’ as a way of rewilding and planting up business park areas for bees and other pollinators. As a tenant of the BIC I approached them with the idea for a pilot project, the area of land behind the Jupiter Centre was identified, a planting plan put in place and the pilot project was launched on 21st March. 300 wildflower plants were planted across two garden pods and one wildflower meadow area. The aspiration is to promote the garden as a place for tenants to enjoy as an outdoor space and promote wellbeing.

What are the implications of losing pollinator insects?

Honeybees are by far the most important pollinator on the planet but over-industrialisation, the destruction of natural habitats, the use of pesticides, and the climate crisis are all forcing their alarming decline. If we lose pollinating insects this will have a major impact on the billion-pound food industry. Pollinators are essential to fertilize plants. Humans and other animals rely on pollinators to produce nuts and fruits that are essential components of our healthy diet.

How do they support the environment?

Up to 80% of all flowering plants need pollinators to reproduce. Without the pollination process there would be a small amount of flowering plants on Earth. Plants also carry out an essential process known as carbon sequestration whereby they utilise the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for growing through photosynthesis. During this process plants also release oxygen as a waste product of their metabolism. Take away the pollinators and the plants and this will pose a very serious threat to the environment and the ability to sequester and absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

I believe it was Albert Einstein who said “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have 4 years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man”.

What if you’re scared of wasps?

It’s okay to be scared of wasps as historically they’ve always been seen to be the bad and scary insects. But did you know that the wasps are the essential pollinators responsible for the yeast we use to make wine, beer and bread! Take away the wasps and you will struggle to have your daily dose of bread – Jennifer wrote a blog about respecting the wasp – definitely worth a read!

How can tenants or visitors of the BIC get involved?

Initially tenants can read about the project on our website. If tenants would also like to visit the garden please do pop out there and have a look at the flowers that are growing there and ask us further questions – and even better if you spot a pollinator landing please do let us know! The Pollinator Parks garden is very much an “evolving” project which will look very different in the many years to come. The project is also logged on the Buglife “B-Lines” project which means it is listed on the UK Road Map for pollinators – a bit like the motorway for bees!

Why are there weeds in the garden?

Did you know that weeds are really just plants in the wrong place and plants such as dandelion, clover, thistle, speedwell, yarrow have all been historically identified as weeds yet they are essential to the pollination process? Yarrow, for example which we have lots of in the meadow, has flat flower clusters and is a favourite landing spot for butterflies as well as bees – it also has great medicinal benefits. Dandelions are an important first source of nectar for bees and other beneficial insects. These flowers act as a bridge to survival for bees and other bugs that have managed to make it through the winter until more plentiful flowers of spring appear.

Why does the meadow look so untidy?

The meadow may sometimes look “wild” but it’s an essential part of its growing process with many grasses, plants, flowers and wildflowers finding their own way through the soil.

We were thrilled this summer to see many Bee Orchids finding their own way and growing in the meadow – these were never planted but just by not mowing the lawn area for 3 to 4 months they were encouraged to grow of their own accord.

We recorded at least 6 of these amazing plants in the meadow at the BIC. Bee Orchids can sometimes take 5 to 8 years to flower and is unique with its pink petals and brown centre which looks just like the body of a bee. These beautiful flowers are also a declining species so by keeping the Bee Orchids in the ground we will see them returning for many years to come – a success story for pollinators and the BIC!

If you’ve visited the meadow area recently you will notice it has been cut – there is a very good reason for this. Cutting the meadow helps maintain the diverse mix of flowers and grasses we have in there and it’s an essential part of the growing process. And don’t worry the wildflowers will definitely come back next spring bigger, bolder and better – great for more pollinators.

I hope this has provided you with some great information about the Pollinator Parks project at the BIC and if anyone has any questions please do email them to Sharon@climateactionnortheast.org.uk

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