Pollinator Plan as extinction threat to bee species outlined to Derry & Strabane Councillors

Members of Derry City and Strabane Environment and Regeneration Committee were enthusiastic in their support for a report brought by Biodiversity Officer, Dr Christine Doherty, detailing the council’s targets for pollinator conservation in council-owned green spaces, keeping in line with the all-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2021-25. 

The report showed that there is only one species of honey bee which is managed by beekeepers, a pure population of the native Irish Black Bee. As a managed pollinator, it is not considered under threat.

There are 21 bumblebee species, with six threatened with extinction from Ireland. There are 77 solitary bee species, with 24 threatened with extinction.

Dr Christine Doherty explained the main reason these bees were at threat of extinction. “It’s due to a change of farming practices and the fact we have got rid of 97% of wild flower meadows,” she said. “So basically we have lost somewhere for these bees to live and also the source of their food. These bees are dying of hunger, there’s not enough flowers to support them and there’s not enough places for their nesting sites. Put simply, bees are like people, they need somewhere to live and something to eat in order to survive.”

Councillor Michaela Boyle at the launch of a recent Don't Mow (Yet) scheme which is seeing grass and wildflowers allowed to flourish on some areas of Derry City and Strabane District Council land with Marcus Wallace and Martin Park, Team Leader and Christine Doherty, Council's Biodiversity Officer. Picture Martin McKeown. 30.04.21

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Ms Doherty addressed the reasons we need to protect the pollinators. “Ecosystem services are basically the services that we as human beings receive free from biodiversity. So our very survival depends upon it and pollination is a very good example of an ecosystem service that we receive for free to create food and in order to survive. 

“So, 71 of the top 100 crops that we rely on around the world are pollinated by animals. We need these animals to pollinate the food otherwise it’s going to cost a lot more money. They pollinate things we take for granted like apples, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, peppers and tomatoes. So if we don’t look after the bees there will be reduced choices and  higher food prices, similar to what has been experienced recently with Brexit and Covid.”

Members were told the key mechanism to help reverse this decline and restore wildlife habitats is the implementation of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan which was launched in 2015.

Derry City and Strabane Council has developed a Council Pollinator Plan 2015-2020, aligned to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015 – 2020. It has already delivered a range of practical actions such as making public land pollinator friendly, to help conserve pollinators at a local level within the council area.

Advertisement

Hide Ad
Undated Handout Photo of a bee on an aster. See PA Feature GARDENING Advice Bees. Picture credit should read: Alamy/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Advice Bees.

In 2021, a network of 11 large green spaces within the council area has already had a change in grass management. The programme has also been extended to 23 cemeteries.

Sinn Fein Councillor Sandra Duffy said: “It’s great to see the progress that’s being made.  Going out for a walk and seeing the beautiful wild flower meadows, particularly in the Bay Road where I walk the dog, it was something I was very proud of to see that our council was doing this. The work that we are doing here locally, being led by Christine, in terms of the green infrastructure and doing our utmost to preserve our environment for future generations and the protection of our pollinators is key and I am really proud to be part of a council that’s leading the way on it.”

Describing the overall concept as ‘brilliant and extremely welcome’, UUP Alderman Derek Hussey raised a concern about how the pollinator plan is being carried out in some of the cemeteries, explaining that ‘some people feel that the pollinator plan takes away from the tidy manner they expect to see in cemeteries’.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

DUP Alderman Keith Kerrigan agreed saying: “With regards to some of the cemeteries, particularly some of the older ones, they can look a bit unkempt and overgrown although I do understand what is trying to be done.”

Head of Environment Conor Canning reassured the councillors that council ‘will take the comments about cemeteries on board and look at them’.

PBP Councillor Maeve O’Neill said the fact that we have lost almost 97% of wildflower meadows is ‘really alarming’.  She added: “The key thing with the Don’t Mow, Let it Grow campaign is there was really good public education around it and we need to continue that public education.”

The Moor DEA councillor then made a proposal that ‘council write to the Education Authority, the Housing Executive, Housing Associations and the Western Trust to determine their practices with regards to their land management for pollinators, to share council’s pollinator plan with these public bodies.’ 

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Also welcoming the report and the biodiversity work being carried out in the council area, Deputy Mayor, Sinn Fein Councillor Christopher Jackson asked: “Am I right in suggesting at one point council were providing wildflower seeds to anyone who wanted them and are they native to our locality?

Dr Doherty responded: “Yes, it was a council motion passed in the spring of the year and it was to a range of schools, community groups and the public that seed has been distributed. It was seed from Northern Ireland, it is quite difficult to source seeds at the moment due to Brexit and Covid so we used a company in Northern Ireland but they aren’t from the Derry district.”

Following the presentation, Councillor O’Neill’s proposal passed unanimously.

Gillian Anderson

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Local Democracy Reporter