Why are we doing this? The 2022 Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife report showed Kent’s flying insects have declined by 72% in only 17 years. Pollinators are vital for producing the food we eat and the very existence of the Kent countryside, our gardens and green spaces we love. Remember driving in the summer only a few years ago and how the car windscreen and numberplate would be splattered with loads of bugs and how few there are now. The fall in insect numbers is linked to the decline in other species for example our iconic swifts which we’re so lucky to have in the village. We’ve seen very few swifts this year due to the adverse weather and the fall in insects which they feed on is a worry.
What are pollinators? Pollinators are so-called because they carry the reproductive pollen grains from flower to flower, enabling the fertilisation for seeds, nuts and fruit. Through pollination, new generations of plants grow in turn supporting wild habitats and other wildlife. Without pollination, most wild and cultivated plants, from trees to strawberries, could not reproduce.
According to the conservation group Buglife, every third mouth of our food depends on insect pollinators. They are central to Kent’s fruit farms – 40% of the county’s agriculture. They serve crops like oil seed rape, clovers and other nitrogen fixing plants, important for livestock grazing and wild flowers. They add to the diversity of plant species, habitats and wildlife in Kent as well as its natural beauty, making Kent a better place to live, to enjoy and to visit. Losing our pollinators would be a major ecological and economic disaster.
Many insect groups are excellent pollinators. The best known of them are bees, including bumblebees, solitary bees and the honeybee. But other wild insects are equally vital for pollination including wasps, hoverfies, moths and butterfies. Even some beetles, mosquitoes and ants have a pollinating role. Many plants have evolved to offer nectar to attract insects. Whilst insects are feeding on a flower’s nectar or collecting pollen to feed to their young, pollen grains stick to the insects’ bodies and transfer to the reproductive organs of the next flower they visit.
What can we do? A great starting point is to support Kent’s Plan Bee Pollinator Action Plan developed by Kent County Council to take the lead and encourage local communities to improve the food sources and general habitat for pollinators in Kent to reverse their continuing decline.
Goudhurst has started some projects already. The working group is already planning on how we can manage our green spaces better for pollinators, here’s what we’ve been doing over the last month: We’re taking advice from Caring For God’s Acre about how we can increase biodiversity and wild flowers in our churchyards. In No Mow May the bank along Back Lane was not cut and it’s been lovely to see wildflowers such as Alkanet popping up. We undertook a survey of the Victorian Cemetery and found over 30 species including Sticky Mouse Ear, Purple Toadflax and Goat Willow. How wonderful it would be to see more of these! We’ve approached High Weald AONB – part of Sussex Lund – and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to help us with ideas for the Lower Glebe Field. Amongst some of the things we’re considering are creating a wildflower meadow, planting fruit-trees and laying a native hedge. It’s a wonderful open space with spectacular views and we want to make it even better for our wildlife. We’re also looking at how we can further enhance our village pond for wildlife. All these ideas will be brought to council for consideration. The council has stopped using weedkiller. Most of the widely used chemicals are broad spectrum, meaning they affect more than just the intended target pest, disease or weed. If you’re a bee nesting or feeding you’re likely to get a potentially harmful dose, like it or not. There’s also evidence of damage to soils and water, and the organisms that depend on them. The knock-on effect of this though is that it’s more labour intensive to control the few areas that the council does need to keep neat and tidy, for example the ashes plots on the burial ground, which are now being hand-weeded. Volunteers will always be needed to help with this, please do get in touch if you’d like to help. We can all help our pollinators and wildlife, here’s what we can do at home in June whether you have a window box or a garden. Avoid insect-toxic sprays in your own garden and opt for sustainable alternatives and try organic gardening including companion planting. Plant buddleias now for flowers July-September. Long blooming perennials such as Achillea, Hyssop, Echinacea are great for pollinators and what’s great is they come up every year! Avoid using slug pellets as these are fatal to other creatures who eat them, including hedgehogs. Instead use sharp sand, beer traps, copper tape as slug deterrents.
Do get in touch if you’d like to be involved! My ‘Wild About Goudhurst & Kilndown’ Working Party is on WhatsApp, do let me know if you’d like to join and volunteer to help with the various projects and support the parish council.
I’ve also set up a community group ‘Wild About Goudhurst, Kilndown and Lamberhurst’ on Facebook, it’s a page celebrating the wildlife around the villages and how we can all help preserve them.
For the bees Geoff Mason firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
Sources: Kent’s Plan Bee pollinator action plan – Kent County Council <www.kent.gov.uk/environment-waste-and-planning/nature-and-biodiversity/pollinators/kents-plan-bee-pollinator-action-plan#:~:text=Kent%27s%20Plan%20Bee%20is%20a%20pollinator,and%20environment%20and%…> Insects populations are dying out. Here’s why they don’t have to | BBC Science Focus Magazine <www.sciencefocus.com/nature/insects-apocalypse-dave-goulson/> Effects of pesticides on our wildlife | Policy and insight (friendsoftheearth.uk) <policy.friendsoftheearth.uk/insight/effects-pesticides-our-wildlife> High Weald Swifts <www.highwealdswifts.co.uk/> Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology and Author of ‘Silent Earth, Averting the Insect Apocalypse’