Belfast could soon become a haven for endangered bee species.
Councillors from all parties have backed a plan taking steps to protect honey bees, including encouraging the spread of pollinating plants and flowers across the city.
Members of the city council’s People and Communities Committee meeting this week (May 10) agreed to sign up to an all-Ireland plan.
The number of bees has plummeted across the decade, with pesticides and loss of habitat blamed.
Belfast City Council will now undertake to carry out one pollinator-friendly action, such as reducing use of harmful chemicals, in the first year of signing up, with at least three more within the following five years.
The plan aims to make public, private and farm land pollinator friendly, to have an All Ireland Honeybee Strategy, and to conserve rare pollinators.
Earlier this year the council agreed to support the Belfast’s Buzzing Pollinator Project with BugLife, which aims to promote insect pollinators in parks and open spaces and engage with local communities in the recovery of nature within their local area.
£5,000 designated to the Belfast’s Buzzing project will form the focus of the council’s commitment to the All Ireland Pollinator Plan over the next two years.
Expressin support for further action, Sinn Fein Councillor Matt Garrett told the committee: “Where do we sign up to this? This is very important.”
Green Councillor Anthony Flynn said the council should rethink its way of dealing with weeds on public land, and its use of chemicals. He said: “When we talk about local biodiversity, what we call weeds, bees absolutely love.
“And when we talk about pollinators, that is one incredibly important way we can change land use, particularly in our local parks. Actually rewilding certain areas in parks, and using that as a way to educate people in communities as to how local biodiversity works.”
Insect pollination is essential to food production. Wild bees pollinate between 85 and 95 percent of the UK’s insect pollinated crops, while honeybees pollinate between 5 and 15 percent. This free service is estimated to be worth £1.8 billion each year.
More than half of our bee species have suffered declines over the past 50 years with over 250 UK pollinators in danger of extinction. Habitat loss is the problem – Northern Ireland has lost 97 percent of its wildflower meadows in the last half century.