We’ve posted many times about insect decline/pesticides/habitat loss in the first year of The War on Wildlife Project, including Understanding UK Insect Decline and Extinctions: A Government Briefing, ‘Alarming’ loss of insects – so why the jokes?, Pesticides Linked to Deaths of Millions of Bees in Brazil and Bumblebees – canaries in the countryside?.
As we have said many times, insect decline matters. Hugely. Putting aside their intrinsic right to exist, insects are a key food source for many birds (populations of insectivorous birds have collapsed in the last half century), amphibians, bats, reptiles, fish, and even other insects, while many plants (and some crops) rely on insects for pollination.
Insect decline is inextricably linked with pesticides and habitat loss (especially grasslands and wildflower-rich meadows). The latter also leads to habitat fragmentation, pockets of habitat that are no longer linked and which have less species diversity than large connected habitats.
The declines can’t be reversed without action to restore habitats and allowing them to develop naturally. They can’t be reversed until we stop drowning them in enormously powerful pesticides. And there is little point in creating islands of healthy habitats that trap insects (and other wildlife) with no means of moving out of them. Wildlife needs to be able to move between sites to find new mates, maintain genetic diversity (which helps them adapt to eg climate change), take advantage of new food supplies, and to spread from areas where they have reached capacity to newly restored sites where they can thrive again.
The charity Buglife has proposed setting up a nationwide system of insect ‘corridors’ they are calling ‘B Lines’. As they put it in the information below: “We need to restore our countryside. We need to increase the number of wildflower-rich places, and we need to make sure that these areas are large enough to provide everything that pollinators need to thrive. We also need to join the dots. And that is where B-Lines comes in.”
Our insects and other invertebrates are in trouble. Now this is due to a number of factors, including climate change, pesticide use, pollution of rivers and streams and invasive species. But, the main reason why our invertebrates and other wildlife is disappearing from our countryside and our towns is the loss of habitat. To put it simply, we just aren’t making enough space for the millions of other species that we share our planet with.
What do we mean by habitat? It is the place where a plant or an animal lives. It is where the species gets everything it needs to survive – for invertebrates that is something to eat, somewhere to breed and somewhere to rest. For those species that migrate, it can include multiple sites, and the routes between them.
So if we want to help bees, butterflies and other pollinators, we need to ensure that they have enough wildflowers to collect nectar and pollen from, the right places to nest or lay eggs, and the freedom to move unimpeded through our countryside. At the moment, in many places we do not have this. Wildflower-rich habitats like meadows and heathlands are too few, too small, and too far apart.
What’s the solution?
We need to restore our countryside. We need to increase the number of wildflower-rich places, and we need to make sure that these areas are large enough to provide everything that pollinators need to thrive. We also need to join the dots. And that is where B-Lines comes in.
At Buglife we have ambitious plans. We are working with others to restore wildflower-rich areas of our countryside through our B-Lines projects. Over the past six years we have worked with partners across the UK to map opportunities for creating B-Lines at a county and country scale. B-Lines mapping is now complete for Wales, Northern Ireland, and England; our Scotland map will also be completed by the end of the year.
Through regional projects such as the West of England B-Lines project, Landscapes for Wild Pollinators, South Wales B-Lines, Get Cumbria Buzzing and John Muir Pollinator Way we have explored new creative ways of working with different partners to deliver the B-Lines habitat creation and restoration on the ground. We have worked with water companies, schools, businesses, farmers, highways managers and local authorities. To date, our regional B-Lines partnership projects have delivered over 450 hectares of wildflower-rich habitat for pollinating insects across England, Scotland and Wales – that’s the equivalent of 450 football pitches!
We need your help!
B-Lines continues to inspire and gain huge support from conservation partners, farmers and other landowners, and from the public. But, if we are to join all the dots we need your help. Here are three things you can do right now:
Spread the word! We need to hear from landowners who would like to work with us to restore or create wildflower-rich habitats. You could also speak to your local council about B-Lines – public green space can provide useful stepping stones for pollinators if managed in the right way.
Get stuck in! Take a look at our B-Lines map. If you are on a B-Line, please add your pollinator patch, or use the resources on our website to plan one.
Join Buglife! We have the solutions to turning around the fortunes of disappearing insects, with your support we can turn our B-Lines plans into rivers of wildflowers.B-Lines – what is it all about?, Buglife, 09 July 2020