The Pollinator Project has made steady strides in Guernsey as it seeks to convince residents to convert their gardens into pollinator-friendly places and generally make that island more hospitable to bees, butterflies, wasps and other insects.
Pollinator Project co-founder Barry Wells said they wanted to do their part to prevent an ‘insect apocalypse’.
Alarming population declines and local extinctions of pollinator species have been seen across the US and Europe in recent studies. One in ten pollinating insects is on the brink of extinction, and a third of bee and butterfly species are declining.
With nearly a third of Guernsey’s land mass classified as private gardens, the Pollinator Project decided to make a change in their own backyard – with an awareness campaign targeted at homeowners.
‘We see this is a massive untapped source of biodiversity,’ Mr Wells said. ‘If they set aside just ten per cent of their gardens for pollinating insects, this would add over 150 hectares to the natural environment – equivalent to 200 football pitches. That was our starting point.’
The Pollinator Project worked in partnership to promote and achieve its goals. They found financial backing through the Co-op Eco-fund, States of Guernsey and Guernsey Climate Action Network. They also had help getting started from the UK charity
Bug Life, which not only provided materials but also sent over a countryside adviser.
With just £15,000 they started to work – setting up a comprehensive website and launching last
Their awareness campaign was not limited to home gardens, however, they targeted local schools, businesses and disused government plots to create new oases for insects.
‘We set up pollinator patches at ten local schools and will be setting up more this year,’ Mr Wells said. ‘It’s great getting the kids involved.
‘We all know there is a growing disconnect between children and the natural environment. This is an opportunity for kids to get involved in planting in their own schools.’
Community outreach did not stop there, however, they started working with local garden centres to encourage them to bring in the right sort of plants for pollinators.
And, an artificial ‘bee cliff’ was created as a pilot scheme. ‘It’s been highly successful,’ Mr Wells said. ‘Already we have had honey bees nesting there in the cells. These are bees that are a particularly coastal species and they have taken over, in great numbers, this little area we created.’
Unhappy with the bee houses available in local garden shops, they designed their own. ‘We paid Clip – the creative learning in prison charity for young offenders – and they built 50 bee hotels for us,’ Mr Wells said.
And they worked with Guernsey’s parishes to convince them to plant pollinator friendly plants on roadsides and roundabouts – one of which is now a finalist in the Britain in Bloom competition.
Mr Wells said he was keen to help Jersey mimic the project’s success locally and looks forward to helping take it pan-Island.