Ann Fitzgerald: 'Wild is wonderful, so why don't we fight harder for our pollinators?'

A succession of reports have identified an alarming decline in pollinator and insect numbers
A succession of reports have identified an alarming decline in pollinator and insect numbers
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

I'm delighted at the obvious progress being made by rural communities of the take-up of twin pollinator/biodiversity messages - but I feel there are a few further actions that would take the campaign up to the next level.

One place that jumped out at me on my recent travels was Kilkenny City, especially along the Callan Road and on the extensive banks flanking the Castlecomer Road roundabout.

Swathes of mixed grasses are interspersed with some shrubs and clusters of cheery wild flowers, with a mown margin closest to the road, to walk on and to demonstrate that it is being managed.

It was little surprise then to discover that, a few months back, Kilkenny County Council became the first local authority to officially partner with the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.

Led by the National Biodiversity Data Centre, the plan is a cross-sectoral initiative with local authorities, farmers, community groups, etc to support pollinators such as bees, which pollinate our crops, fruits and vegetables.

Then, on a recent visit to Clonmel, the centres of some of the roundabouts on the bypass were uncut. Peeping out from the long grass were signs which simply said, 'For Pollinators'.

Local authorities are the ones who manage much of the roadside margins and thus have the perfect opportunity to demonstrate these kinds of landscapes. The more we see how beautiful they can be, the more likely people are to want to replicate them. Knowing that we are also doing good is the cherry on top.

Less cutting of grass margins not only helps pollinators and biodiversity, it has climate-change mitigation benefits, too, as it saves on fuel and on human resources, who could be freed up to do something more constructive.

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So less spraying, fewer mowings and plant native species, please.

I'd also ask farm and stud owners with extensive roadside margins, which are often highly manicured, to consider managing them for wildlife.

Even leaving longer between mowings would help.

Of course, perspectives and habits are hard to change and, the older, the harder.

One day last week, on a drive of about 25 miles, I passed six people mowing roadside margins.

All were men, and the majority were north of 60 and - gross generalisation coming up - mowing grass is something that retired men do, while the women tend flowers.

Moving swiftly along, it seems to me that the pollinator/biodiversity movement needs a catchy slogan.

My suggestion is, "Neat is nice, but wild is wonderful".

I know it's not perfect because some management is necessary for optimal performance, but I think it captures a number of critical elements of what it's all about, including that there is more variation and thus more to admire and amaze in natural landscapes.

I have previously commended the Tidy Towns, which, in conjunction with Local Authorities, runs a special category for the implementation of pollinator-friendly actions.

But the competition offers a golden opportunity to put the pollinator/biodiversity message centre-stage.

The Tidy Towns is run by civil servants, from the Department of Rural and Community Development, who do a fantastic job, but this work is largely under the radar, so the competition doesn't have much of a public face.

Thus, it seems obvious that the opportunity is falling to the title sponsor. So over to you, SuperValu.

Indo Farming

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