SPRING is nearly here and soon will follow the season of the pollinators.
Shortly we’ll be spotting bumblebees whizzing about, complaining about flies around our picnic and wasps around our ice cream, spending afternoons watching butterflies in the sun and enjoying the wild outdoors. But is there really a home for pollinators in our Island? With increasing urbanisation, more roads, more houses and less wild countryside with fields of wild flowers, there is a strong chance we will not be seeing pollinators in high numbers this year.
What is a pollinator? A pollinator is an animal that moves pollen from one flower to another, resulting in fertilisation that produces fruit and seeds. These animals can be as small as a pollen beetle the size of a grain of rice, or as large as a fruit bat in a rainforest. Without pollinators we would not benefit from the reproduction of plants that create food and habitats for humans and other animal species that call this Island their home. Pollinators are key for our survival, with food security relying on their pollinating skills, so protecting them and helping to improve their environment is vital.
Pollinator figures are on the decline, and we are to blame. This has also resulted in a decline in the number of birds across the UK, with an 8% reduction since 1970. But we can also be an advocate for the little guys and support pollinators in our daily lives. The Pollinator Project is here to help you to help pollinators. We are focusing on pollinating insects, which include many different species, such as hoverflies, beetles, flies, butterflies and moths. There are many things we can do at home, work and school to support pollinators.
Plant a pollinator patch
If you are into gardening or have a window box or green space, you could dedicate this to pollinators and create a pollinator patch. To start your pollinator patch, you need a dedicated area of ground, whether that’s on your lawn, in a window box, pot or flower bed – any size will do.
The key for a perfect pollinator patch is preparation.
Dig over the soil with a fork or spade, breaking up any large clumps and removing any weeds or large stones.
Ideally, leave your prepared soil for about two weeks so any dormant weeds or grasses that come to life can be removed before you sow your seeds.
You will need two to three grams of seed per square metre. You can buy a Jersey wildflower mix from Norman’s, Five Oaks, suitable for urban areas, gardens and schools. There is also a countryside mix now available for use on sites that border fields and protected sites.
Scatter your wildflower seeds over your prepared soil by hand – a little at a time for an even spread. To make spreading easier you can mix seeds with a small amount of dry play sand so you can see where you have sown them.
Rake the soil gently to just cover the seeds with a very thin layer (1mm) of fine crumbly soil. Seeds need sunlight, so be careful not to bury them too deep or they won’t grow.
Very gently, water the whole area using a watering can, taking care not to wash your seeds away.
After sowing the seeds you will need to water your patch twice a week.
To protect wildflowers already growing in the countryside from cross-pollination with the flowers in your seed kit, please make sure that you don’t sow seeds in or near open countryside or near nature reserves.
Once you have planted your pollinator patch you can add it to the Channel Island Map Your Pollinator Friendly Areas tool at: pollinatorproject.gg/map-your-pollinator-friendly-area/.
Make a bee and bug hotel
If you would like to make a home for these pollinators you can make a bee and bug hotel. You will need a container such as a metal empty food can or a wooden box. Collect materials that bees and bugs will like.
If you want to attract solitary bees they require bamboo tubes that are 15mm long. They lay their eggs in the tubes, so these need to be kept waterproof in your main box. If you want to attract moths, beetles and bugs use dead sticks and dead wood to fill the container up.
These gaps will provide a great hiding space for lots of species of invertebrates.
If you’re not a DIY person you can purchase bee and bug hotels in garden centres and online.
Put the bee hotels up in a sunny spot at least 30cm off the ground. For bug hotels you can put these on a wall or on the floor.
No mow on your lawn
If you’re not a keen gardener but still have an outdoor space you can let your garden lawn grow wild and allow the ‘weeds’ to flower.
These ‘weeds’, such as daisies and dandelions, provide an important food source to pollinators and this requires little work from us to create.
Share your pollinator wildlife sightings
Let us know what pollinators you have spotted by sending a record to the Jersey Biodiversity Centre. This information will be added to a pollinator map for the Island. We will also be running dedicated surveys of pollinators in the newly created pollinator patches. For the time being let us know what you have seen and add photos to your record to help with the verification of the species.
lFor more information on the project and how you can get involved please visit PollinatorProject.gg.