Getting to know you        

No, not the Julie Andrews song from ‘The King and I’ but a Buglife course to get to know your pollinators. Buglife run a series of identification courses throughout the summer, many are free and all are excellent. My recent trip to their Pollinator Workshop in Grangemouth was typically informative, uplifting and fun.


Suzanne Burgess, who manages Buglife’s Scotland branch, was on great form as she presented an insight on the diversity of pollinators, their lifecycles, roles and key characteristics in the morning before taking us out in the afternoon to catch and identify pollinators. The course was held at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre in Grangemouth and was a real hit with everyone who attended.

Founded in 2002, Buglife is devoted to conservation of invertebrates and their aim is to halt invertebrate extinctions and achieve sustainable populations of invertebrates. They do this through a mixture of projects and campaigns which put habitats and species at the centre of their work, but increasingly they have earned a reputation as an organisation that very successfully connects people and nature.


The identification course that I attended in Grangemouth was a real treat. This workshop quickly revealed the amazing diversity of Scottish pollinators (including bees, hoverflies, butterflies and others), their lifecycle, several commonly seen species and outlined the best surveying techniques.

A fascinating section the value of grasslands, swiftly moved to what we can all do to help pollinators in the outdoor space we look after or connect with. Then butterflies, bees and wasps fell under the microscope.


The world of cuckoo bumblebees took us on to flies, and in particular hoverflies. False veins, false margins, and then butterflies. How to distinguish the relatively small number we get in Scotland was drawn to a close about what butterflies do in winter. Then it was moths and beetles before nets and pots were handed out.

To say the weather was kind is faint praise for what was a lovely afternoon. After Suzanne had shown us her sweeping style we were let loose on the meadow to see what we could catch … and boy did we catch a lot.  Solitary bees, red-tailed bumblebees, tree bumblebees, common wasps, honey bees, an amazing range of hoverflies all offered themselves up and were duly identified, recorded and released. The list of species we netted was as diverse as it was long.


It was hard to emerge from the course feeling anything but enthused. Here was a wonderful way to connect with nature and proof of the old Scots saying that “Every day is a School Day”.


Follow the Buglife website for details of more courses and in the meantime one of the best ways to help our pollinators is to consider joining bodies like Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Butterfly Conservation. They do great work and deserve your help.


Find out more

Buglife Scotland @

Pollinator Strategy for Scotland @






Glasgow – the pollinator’s friend

As our largest city, with a rich industrial history, you may not immediately think of Glasgow as a place for pollinators. However, make no mistake, Glasgow is more than doing its bit for our pollinators, as I found out when I recently met with Carol MacLean (Biodiversity Officer) and Allison Greig (Senior Countryside Ranger) at the magnificent Pollok Country Park.

When it comes to managing the public greenspaces that Glasgow owns the City Council has a great story to tell.


Take their commitment to meadow creation and management for instance. This is a huge bonus for our pollinating insects. Not only is this vital habitat being created across the city, but by taking some of the seed production for this work ‘in house’ the team in Glasgow can be confident of the provenance of their seeds and be masters of their own destiny when it comes to the composition and scheduling of their new meadows.

It takes real effort and considerable skill to manage seed production and in Glasgow this is done under the Glasgow’s Flower Power banner.  The flower nursery is based at the beautiful and tranquil Pollok Country Park — it’s an exciting project and radical departure for a city that was internationally recognised as a byword for heavy industrial settings not so long ago.


They say that many hands make light work and the Flower Power initiative benefits from welcome input from volunteer groups who are a key part of delivering this work, thus helping to enhance local greenspace and biodiversity.

Visitors who want to see some of Glasgow’s fabulous urban wildflower meadows are spoiled for choice on locations to visit. Local Nature Reserves at Hogganfield Park and Robroyston Park are fine examples, along with Ruchill Park and Alexandra Park.

Creating a wildflower meadow is one thing. Making it widely popular is another, especially when it involves a change in land use. Glasgow City Council tackled this challenge head on and have very sensibly created signage that raises awareness of the value of wildflower meadows and explains why a shift from regularly mown amenity grassland to seemingly wild areas is something that the public should enjoy and value in the knowledge that they are helping biodiversity. And rest assured that in a football-mad city like Glasgow there is room for both football pitches and wildflower meadows on council lands.

wildlife haven sign CHOICE_final

Having created and promoted the value of a wildflower meadow the next step is to manage the site thereafter.  On a practical level Glasgow’s meadows are cut by different teams. On a larger scale meadow a contractor, who will be well-briefed, carries out the work, whilst Glasgow City Council-LES and volunteers deal with the smaller meadows. In addition to these organised teams there are lots of groups involved in wildflower planting across the city to improve habitats for wildlife and pollinators.



There are several strands to the management of Glasgow’s Parks and greenspaces – and a stack of opportunities. There isn’t space in a short article to do them all justice, but bee banks have been created at Alexandra Park and Cardowan Moss (to name but two sites) and the council work with Butterfly Conservation to carry out surveys at various city sites to monitor the status of these often unsung pollinators.

Glasgow City Council staff value their pollinators – a lot – and that’s why the city produced a Glasgow Pollinator Plan which aims to support the National Pollinator Strategy with local action. It’s that foresight and sense of connection that typifies the sound approach Glasgow takes to its biodiversity commitments.

The health benefits of nature in city settings are clearly increasingly recognised. The role that urban areas can provide in providing habitats for species are equally seen as incredibly valuable. On that basis Glasgow has much to be proud of and is very much ‘Still Game’ when it comes to improving the lot of people and nature.


Find out more

Glasgow Pollinator Plan @

Pollinator Strategy for Scotland @

Glasgow Flower Power @

The Conservation Volunteers @



Pollinating Edinburgh’s Living Landscape

There has been lots happening to benefit pollinators across Edinburgh, especially since the launch of the Edinburgh Living Landscape , as Hebe Carus of the Scottish Wildlife Trust revealed in a recent catch up we enjoyed.


Edinburgh’s Living Landscape is a partnership of organisations in Edinburgh committed to a shared vision of improving the ecosystem health of the landscape as a whole – benefitting nature and the city’s people while taking the economy and costs of actions into account. We only launched at the end of 2014, and even in that short time, partner organisations are delivering big changes. With an estimated 14,000 gardens, numerous public greenspaces and many “grey” buildings that could be enhanced – a pollinator theme is a natural fit. As action can be taken at a tiny scale of window boxes up to changing large areas of some of Edinburgh’s parks, everyone can do their bit – individuals, businesses and public bodies, and that is exactly what has started to happen.

The Pollinator Pledge was launched just a year ago and led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust . It is a campaign to get as many individuals as possible to sign up to take an action however small on their window sill, in their private garden or shared greenspace. We have even been approached by 2 businesses asking if they can take the Pledge, so momentum is building. If you live in Edinburgh and can plant a window box for pollinators, or if you have a garden then commit a corner or the whole garden for pollinators, get involved here.

The Cube

The Glenmorangie Company Ltd office Square Metre for Butterflies (c) Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Business and office buildings are adding or improving small areas planted with pollinator-friendly plants. Dubbed Square Metre for Butterflies, there are already 9 new locations planted up. This project was led by Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Butterfly Conservation and inspired by the rediscovery of a vulnerable population of Northern Brown Argus on Arthur’s Seat. The new areas are proving especially attractive to bees, but we hope the butterflies will benefit in time as we build the network of locations.

Northern Brown Argus - P Kirkland - lo res June 2009

Northern Brown Argus (c) Paul Kirkland : Butterfly Conservation Scotland


The City of Edinburgh Council has created 74 new wildflower meadows across Council parks, and a further number of ‘relaxed mowing’ areas that pollinators, small mammals and other species, are enjoying far more than the bowling green “amenity” grass there before. We of course don’t want to see all grass changed to this – we need places to play football after all, but we need to get the balance right.

Easter Drylaw Meadow 22.08.16 (2)

Easter Drylaw (c) Stephen MacGregor : City of Edinburgh Council

The Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Lothians Local Group has  developed an urban wildflower meadow mix especially designed for ELL, which is now sold commercially through Scotia Seeds . A shoreline mix in conjunction with the Edinburgh Shoreline is now under development with the aim of reflecting what would naturally be in grassland along Edinburgh’s shoreline. The Trust is also improving its grassland at Bawsinch & Duddingston Wildlife Reserve, on the edge of Holyrood Park, by grazing with their Flying Flock and the tiny Johnstone Terrace Wildlife Reserve demonstrates what can be done right in the heart of the city.

All these projects are continuing to be developed and we encourage all individuals, businesses and other organisations in Edinburgh to get involved – contact us by email,  through the website, Facebook, Twitter or by using the hashtag #PollinatorPledge.

If you aren’t in Edinburgh, but you know someone that is, share the knowledge and we can all help make Edinburgh’s landscape better for pollinators as well as people.




Find out more about the Pollinator Strategy for Scotland @

Follow Edinburgh Living Landscape on social media through @Ediburghlivinglandscape (Facebook), @EdinLandscape (Twitter) and by using the hashtag #PollinatorPledge