Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Nectar Point Networks

Most fruit and vegetable plants require pollination, yet the honeybees, bumblebees, hoverflies and other insects that carry out the pollination are having a tough time. Habitats are being degraded, reducing the number of nectar-rich plants in built-up areas; while disease, varroa mite and insecticides have taken their toll on honeybee numbers.

The situation can be improved by individuals planting nectar-rich plant species for feeding insects on an ad hoc basis. However, an initiative to improve insect pollination services through public participation has just been launched: the Nectar Point Network.

A nectar point is a location that has been augmented with plants that produce nectar for insects. It could be in a community garden, residential garden, school grounds, park, roadside verge, or even a large window-box. A nectar point network is a coordinated series of such nectar points in a given area. The network rests on a group of local activists in a growers hub, such as a community garden, who use their skills and resources to propagate nectar-rich plants to supply to their neighbours.

The main considerations in establishing nectar points are to select nectar-rich plants to grow in soil or containers, and to keep a record of the outcomes of planting and any monitoring of pollinators that is done. There is therefore an element of citizen science involved in nectar point networks, with participants encouraged to learn about different pollinator species (e.g., bumblebees) and to  communicate their findings to other groups (e.g., via websites and blogs).

Networks of nectar points can be planned to create ecological corridors through built-up areas for pollinating insects, and to generally enhance local biodiversity and wildlife in gardens and streets. Networks can also, of course, encompass apiaries, and the strategic location of bee tubes or hotels for solitary bees species.

Here are some bee-friendly plants for gardens: heathers, rosemary, dead nettles, pussy willow, thyme, cotoneaster, wallflower, sage, honeysuckle, comfrey, cornflower, buddleia, delphinium, hollyhock, and lavender.

The Nectar Point Network website suggests several local actions for groups. ‘Linking with Lavender’ is one example of a neighbourhood growing scheme with the objective of establishing nectar-rich plants for pollinators in an urban setting.  It relies on a local community garden acting as a hub for propagating and distributing plants in pots to its neighbours.  The pots can be returned to the hub annually or purchased.  Costs could be met by local sponsorship. The pots, containing lavender or any other nectar-rich plants, can be used on patios or paved front garden.

A Welsh Government draft Action Plan for Pollinating Insects was launched in July 2013 (see below), in recognition of the major economic importance of natural pollination services. Also, a new Welsh Government initiative called Cynefin (meaning ‘habitat’) aims to help individuals and groups throughout Wales mount community-led environmental action plans. Cynefin Cardiff is already working with four community gardens in Cardiff with a view to starting a city-wide Nectar Point Network.

This should be the first of a series of posts on Nectar Point Networks on this blog, as I help get a network hub started here in Dinas Powys. I will report on what is involved, and write more about schemes to improve the pollination of fruit and vegetable plants, during the year.

Nectar Point Network website:

Nightingale Community Garden, Dinas Powys:

Welsh Government Action Plan for Pollinators (links to draft documents here):

Friends of the Earth ‘The Bee Cause’ campaign:

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