Glasgow plants hope

Climate change and biodiversity loss are colossal twin challenges in a struggle society has to win.  No corner of the globe is left untouched. Recently the focus picked out Siberia where, it was revealed, between May and October of this year temperatures were 3 C higher than average. It was another startling indication that the crisis we face is as global as it is substantial.

Hoverfly on ox-eye daisy (C) Cath Scott

The postponed COP26 UN climate conference, will take place in November 2021 in Glasgow. And Scotland’s largest city will have a unique opportunity to showcase its own strides in tackling climate change within an international context.

As far as tackling the issues facing pollinators is concerned the city has much to be proud of and will be able to reflect on an increasingly positive outlook. Put simply Glasgow is overhauling the way it manages its public estate.

Glasgow has its own Pollinator Plan which neatly dovetails with the city’s Local Biodiversity Action Plan Monitoring, and Biodiversity Duty reporting. Coronavirus and subsequent restrictions may have put a sizable spanner in the works, but it hasn’t halted progress by any means.

Seven Lochs Volunteers planting wildflowers in a greenspace in Garthamlock, Glasgow. (C) Glasgow City Council

The city’s biodiversity drive is increasingly well honed. The opportunity to pro-actively promote habitat connectivity was seized with the launch of an Open Space Strategy in February 2020 which will seek to provide an integrated habitat network throughout the city.  

Glasgow is well-placed to deliver on this strategy. Already 30 key grasslands sites are managed as traditional meadows under an innovative mixture of management approaches. 

For example, 13 meadows are managed through the Council’s contracting procedures with work being undertaken on site under supervision of the Biodiversity Officers, whilst 15 smaller sites lean heavily on the enthusiasm and expertise of The Conservation Volunteers. And it’s a constantly evolving area of work which can deliver wider biodiversity gains – take for example the wildflower meadow which is cut and lifted specifically as part of the water vole grassland management trial. Great news for water voles, great news for pollinators.

Enhancing how the city looks, as well as how it delivers for biodiversity is a social task for sure.  Two ‘Friends’ groups have been an outstanding social as well as biodiversity success. The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis and Yorkhill Greenspaces in creating highly beneficial (and incredibly attractive) wildflower strips in their local areas have boosted prospects for pollinators and provided a green sanctuary for people to come together in when needed most during the pandemic.

One of the bedrocks of the Glasgow approach has been the ‘Flower Power’ nursery at Pollok Country Park. There the Countryside Rangers ran fortnightly volunteer sessions in their wildflower nursery on Tuesdays and Saturdays engaging a total of 191 individuals whilst providing 288 hours in volunteer time towards raising 1,120 wildflower plugs and plants across 27 sites. Behind the impressive numbers was a triumph of connecting people in a time of crisis.

Annual wildflowers at Hogganfield Park Local Nature Reserve (C) Cath Scott

Perhaps the busiest local group has been the aforementioned Friends of Yorkhill Greenspaces. They are led by the energetic and highly knowledgeable Scott Shanks who has a finely tuned sense of what pollinators need. He has worked with his local community to plant bulbs at Overnewton Park for early nectar and pollen sources, this complementing the work to plant year-round nectar-rich plants in borders and beds. 

Froglife, the amphibian and reptile group, got in on the act too. Through their  Glasgow Green Pathways project they planted over 200 crocus, grape hyacinth and snowdrop bulbs at different sites for pollinators and created wildflower areas in 15sq m of parkland in the shape of raised beds, and redesigned previously mown grass areas across Glasgow. For a small group it’s a big effort and contributes to the growing goal of creating connectivity that wildlife can exploit.

For Glasgow introducing nectar-rich plants into its formal planting schemes in parks and open spaces is a matter of course now. This is coupled with an aim to ensure early and late nectar sources in plantings. To this end 350,000 early flowering bulbs were planted city-wide and grass left uncut until October. It’s an approach that recognises the need for food for pollinators from the start of the season in early spring right through to autumn.

Much of what is achieved in Glasgow is on the back of positive partnership working. Working with Buglife Scotland meant Glasgow could hold 12 workshops/talks on pollinators with over 90 attendees in Castlemilk, Pollokshaws and the Seven Lochs Wetland Park. There was an equally inspiring link up with Butterfly Conservation to raise awareness of the role of pollinators and the variety in our midst.

The world is coming to Glasgow in November 2021. On the evidence of what they are doing for pollinators this is a city that is up for the challenge of identifying actions that make a difference.

To boldly go where no bee has gone before: migratory bumble bees

By Athayde Tonhasca

In April 2016, a birdwatcher on the Dutch coast spotted a buff-tailed bumble bee queen (Bombus terrestris) flying in from the sea. Then another bee, and another, then a wave of bees. Altogether, several hundred bees arrived at the Dutch shore. What probably made the birdwatcher stop watching birds to count bees was the fact that as the bee flies, the nearest land eastwards is England, 160 km across the North Sea.

Nobody tracked those bumble bee queens crossing the sea, but their seasonal arrival is a common occurrence along the Dutch coast. And a few bumble bee species are known to cross large expanses of water. They have been observed flying between Estonia and Finland (80 km), England and Jersey (28.4 km), and Skye and the Outer Hebrides (24 km). Closing the gap between England and The Netherlands would be remarkable, but not implausible.

One giant leap for mankind, one small step for bumble bees. © NASA, image in the public domain.

We know little about insect dispersal, so the occasional, fortuitous observation amazes us. On a moonless night in 2014, a ship of the Brazilian navy sailing the South Atlantic halted over a seamount at about 22:00 h to collect samples. The ship’s hull and deck were illuminated to help the crew carry their lonely task: they were 389 km from the coast and 764 km from the island of Trindade. There were no other ships in the vicinity. Shortly after the lights were turned on, insects from all directions were flying toward the ship. Most of them collided against the hull and fell into the sea, but two researchers on board captured 13 true bugs (Hemiptera), three moths and one dragonfly. How these insects made it that far into the sea at night and for what purpose, is anybody’s guess.

Interestingly, bumble bees flying over water bodies are often spotted because they have been following ferries, ships or sailing boats. Nobody knows why they do this: they may be using vessels or their wake as navigation aids. In any case, these observations tell us that bumble bees travel seasonally and for long distances, which suggests they are migrating.

Strictly speaking, ‘animal migration’ refers to individuals travelling long distances back and forth, like many birds and mammals do. This has never been documented for insects, as no single individual completes the cycle. Instead, insects mate and reproduce along the way or at the end of the outbound journey; only their offspring travel back. But even if done in stages and by different generations, many insects migrate, sometimes in an impressive fashion. The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) can fly non-stop for about 16 h over water at average speeds of 37.5 km/h, and their migratory path extends to almost 5,000 km.

If bumble bees migrate, the consequences are profound. The ability to disperse long distances would help solve the problem of local shortages of food or nesting sites, or unfavourable changes such as habitat fragmentation and degradation. It would also help queens escape parasites or other enemies. But upping sticks may have nothing to do with a bad neighbourhood: it could be a mechanism to increase the genetic diversity of the population.  If a new queen sticks around after emergence, she has a good chance of mating with a closely related male.  

Whatever the triggers, migration is a powerful survival tactic. For example, it could explain why some bumble bee species seem to persist in hostile, intensively farmed areas. These bees may not in fact survive for long, but their numbers may be replenished periodically by new migrants. 

We have just started to understand the travelling customs of our furry pollinators.

A roaming bumble bee: Bum Bill Bee (Krazy Kat, by George Herriman, 1928) © Athayde Tonhasca

Support the UK pollinator monitoring scheme

We are delighted to take a seat at the table when the UK Pollinator Monitoring and Research Partnership (PMRP) meets. This group draws together experts from DEFRA, JNCC, Welsh and Scottish Governments, and the two large-scale Pollinator Monitoring surveys which it finances are crucial to our understanding of pollinator populations.

With reports of dramatic losses of insects occurring across the globe, and concern about what this means for wider biodiversity and ecosystem health, there has never been a more important time to document evidence of change in populations of pollinating insects.

There are two PoMS surveys that you may be familiar with and with which you can get involved.

First up are the FIT Counts. If you can spare ten minutes to sit and watch insects and flowers you can carry out a FIT Count (Flower-Insect Timed Count)! This simple survey collects data on the total number of insects that visit a particular flower, ideally chosen from an approved list of 14 target flowers.

FIT Counts can be done anywhere, including gardens and parks, in warm, dry weather any time from April to September. If you can carry out several counts at one location during that time you will be adding extra value to your survey records. All the information you need is provided in the survey materials that you can download UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology website under the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme pages.

The second part of this survey duo is more complex. It involves monitoring a set of seventy-five 1 km square survey squares in England, Scotland and Wales, using pan traps to capture sample of insects on four visits each year. The squares have been randomly allocated within cropped and non-cropped land. The site network has been set up by UKCEH surveyors, and pan trap sampling, flower and FIT Count monitoring are carried out by a brilliant team of volunteers who have ‘adopted’ the squares and help carry out the surveys having received training from the core PoMS team. The samples they collect are sent back to the PoMS team for sorting and identification, with long-term archiving to preserve and retain the specimens for potential future research use. 

Our reason for mentioning this element here is to remind readers that there are still squares available to adopt! If you’d like to know more about how to get involved with this please contact and see the video guide to the 1 km square survey on the website.

Clearly 2020 was a difficult year for this kind of survey work and it is fair to say the much of the early season was lost as the nation went into lockdown. Nevertheless, as the pandemic rules relaxed a little there was a window in the late summer to complete many surveys and these will contribute to the report which is likely to be issued in 2021.

Data from the two PoMS surveys and the recording schemes is brought together for analysis to deliver key metrics on pollinator population status and trends, including updates of the UK Pollinator Indicator at species and country-level resolution.

If you are thinking about getting involved in 2021 remember that the guidance regarding FIT Counts and surveys will continue to be reviewed in light of government advice. One valuable resource to keep up to date will be the PoMS Twitter account @PoMScheme.

Find out more

Images courtesy and copyright of Katty Baird.

Fabulous Farr Glebe

Tucked behind the Strathnaver Museum in Bettyhill, north Sutherland, is a little natural history gem. It’s here you will find Farr Glebe, a vibrant wildflower meadow protected to help nature in general but particularly hard-pressed bumblebees.

Farr Glebe in July (C) Paul Castle

The Farr Glebe Bumblebee Project, which protects and interprets this floral pocket, was completed in August 2006. This little meadow is a visual delight in summer as well as a nectar and pollen haven for bumblebees.  Crammed with an abundance of flowering plants, including clovers, knapweed, scabious, trefoils and vetches it offers a density of food for bumblebees and many other insects on the northern fringe of mainland Scotland.

Clearly it works. 

Eight of the sixteen bumblebee species found in Northern Scotland have been recorded at Farr Glebe, including rarities such as the Great Yellow Bumblebee and Moss Carder Bee. Both bumblebees are high-profile conservation species in Scotland and feature in the bold and ambitious partnership project – Species on the Edge. Led by NatureScot, it draws together organisations such as Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, The Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, The Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife Scotland and RSPB Scotland in a far-ranging conservation action programme along Scotland’s coasts and islands.

Sadly, eight of Britain’s twenty-three species of bumblebee are under threat, mainly from loss of habitat through changing land use. Bumblebees, as well as being extremely popular and fascinating insects, are essential pollinators for a vast range of both wild plants and commercial crops. The need to help them is widely acknowledged.

Farr Glebe is a superb example of the kind of project that can be a sure-fire boost for bumblebees.  It has benefitted hugely from the input of one of Scotland’s most famous bumblebee experts – Murdo Macdonald, author of a raft of books and papers on bumblebees. Murdo had been visiting the site for several years and was a persuasive advocate in ensuring that appropriate management of the site became a priority.

Murdo Macdonald speaking with visitors on a Bumblebee Safari

As Paul Castle, a Countryside Ranger with High Life Highland, explains the meadow isn’t a one-shot project, it requires annual management to thrive. “The meadow initially required protecting from inappropriate grazing by the construction of suitable fencing”, he explains “following this, the key thing was to ensure we had a programme of on-going meadow management which, crucially, involved cutting the site in autumn and/or spring and removing the cuttings to reduce the nutrient load in the soil. This is a vital but labour-intensive exercise, requiring volunteer help and has proved challenging to complete over the years for many reasons. To anyone thinking of establishing even a mini-meadow I would say “Never under-estimate the amount of work involved managing a wildflower meadow! “

“Nevertheless, we have been lucky that The Bumblebee Conservation Trust and The Highland Council helped significantly with our maintenance regime by providing funding and machinery to cut the site. Our local volunteers who help with grass raking and removal reflect the unwavering commitment of the local community. We are so grateful to a host of local helpers, North Sutherland Wildlife Group, Caithness Countryside Volunteers, Farr High School pupils/staff and other High Life Highland Countryside Rangers. With this fantastic support Farr Glebe will continue causing a buzz in the far north”.

The Great Yellow Bumblebee is distinctive, and not just by its size. It is now found only in the Hebrides, Orkney and north coast of Scotland, despite once being widespread across Britain. It emerges late from hibernation and is reasonably easy to identify by dint of being virtually all yellow with a single band of black hairs stretching across the thorax between the wings breaking this warm colouring. Here in the far north, queens aren’t usually on the wing until mid-June following hibernation and by late summer new queens and males will leave the nest – it’s a short window in which to create a viable nest and produce the essential new mated queens.

The best time to see the Great Yellow Bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) at Farr Glebe, which is just off the North coast 500 in Bettyhill, is between mid-July and late-August. The glebe is a fantastic site for spotting them as it boasts masses of common and greater knapweed, field scabious, clovers and vetches, all welcome food sources for these special bumblebees. 

The Moss Carder bumblebee (Bombus muscorum) has also seen its range decline dramatically as flower-rich hay meadows have shrunk in number. Once again this is a rather lovely bee with a rusty brown body and silvery brown rear.

Back in 2006 funding for Farr Glebe was sourced from Scottish Natural Heritage (now NatureScot, the government’s nature agency) and their financial help along with generous support and additional funding from LEADER+, Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise and The Highland Council were crucial to protecting this wildlife haven.

Projects of this nature bring people and nature together. It’s the vision and energy of enthusiasts like Paul Castle, Murdo Macdonald, the staff at Strathnaver Museum, teachers and pupils at Farr School, local volunteers and local crofters, that ensure bumblebees are celebrated and supported in north Sutherland.

Paul leads guided bumblebee safaris at Farr Glebe during the summer period to help people identify and understand more about the bumblebee’s lifecycle and their importance in the environment. This close-up interaction with bumblebees helps to dispel some of the lingering myths about this often much misunderstood insect.

If you head to Bettyhill in late spring or summer be sure to make a point of visiting Farr Glebe. A permanent interpretation panel informs visitors about bumblebee ecology, and there is a superb bumblebee identification leaflet designed by the pupils of Farr High School. The leaflet is available free to the public, from both the Strathnaver Museum, the local tourist information office and many other establishments.  

Congratulations to everyone behind Farr Glebe, what a wonderful project.

Lanarkshire’s southern comfort

How best to describe the amazing pollinator-friendly work being carried out by South Lanarkshire Council?  Varied and successful are two words which certainly fit the bill. Uplifting is another.

Pollinators badly need our help, and as Louisa Maddison, the Council’s Biodiversity Officer, explains South Lanarkshire Council has a splendidly ambitious approach.

Access route in long grass area
Stathaven Park

“Grassland management is increasingly recognised as a key area where actually doing less can in effect be doing more for pollinators.  By creating areas of long grass and wildflower strips we can help biodiversity hugely and we have a good example of this method in Glen Doll, East Kilbride where deliberately reducing mowing allied to the introduction of yellow rattle is transforming a small patch of land into something of real benefit for pollinators.

“And that’s not an isolated example by any means.  Head along the A726 from East Kilbride and you will soon reach the lovely town of Strathaven. Strathaven Park has been popular for many decades and now a sensory garden and raised beds have been established, which along with the soon to be completed creation of a substantial mixed-hedge (supplied by Scottish Forestry) improves the site nicely as far as pollinators are concerned. That variety of food sources and shelter sites is crucial for pollinators.

Glen Esk, East Kilbride

“Although we own significant tracts of land, not every project is straightforward in a council area. Take the works undertaken in the Glen Esk area of East Kilbride. The challenge here was to get best use for biodiversity and the community from a former landfill site. Bringing contaminated land back into popular use takes skill. Thanks to the installation of a boardwalk, information boards and outdoor classroom facility the Council have made this a patch of land the community can value and embrace. It’s a great way to engage the public with the plight of pollinators and both encourage and demonstrate how positive action makes a huge difference. 

“The Glen Esk work was funded by the Scottish Government’s Vacant and Derelict land fund. Not only is biodiversity benefitting but the community now have a local greenspace with easy access on their doorstep. Long term management of the site has been factored into this project and areas of grassland suitable for a single cut have been identified and this will help wildflowers thrive, provide for pollinators and make for an attractive site.”

South Lanarkshire Council are adept at rolling out successful templates across their district. The Glen Esk approach is being replicated in Carluke this autumn, with hedgerow gap-filling and maintenance high on the list of aims at the old Milton Tile Works site, along with invasive plant species control and wildflower seed sowing.

Strathaven Park

As Louisa explains success is easiest found when people and groups work in close partnership.  “We were delighted in South Lanarkshire Council to team up with Buglife Scotland to create a B-Line in the Clyde Valley. We did this using NatureScot Biodiversity Challenge Funding and during 2019 and 2020 work took place to improve 12 sites for pollinators such as bees and hoverflies. Changing the management at various sites will create that vital ‘stepping stones’ tactic of flower-rich habitat within identified B-line corridors. Connectivity is a key part in helping these vital insects.

“The B-Lines work was really impressive. A canvas of pollinator-friendly elements emerged. Bulbs were planted, plug plants too, wildflower seed sown, hedgerows improved and fruit trees planted. Our old grassland friend – yellow rattle – was also introduced to the site. It’s another example of taking a successful approach from elsewhere and rolling it out in a new site.

“We are also working with Butterfly Conservation Scotland in creating new habitat for butterflies in both Blantyre and Hamilton. The project created wildflower meadows and will host meadow discovery days. That educational element is a big part of persuading more and more people of the value of easing back on some grassland management in order to help nature.”

NatureScot are delighted to see the work being carried out by South Lanarkshire Council – and we were confident that there would be success in this area having witnessed their amazing Green Infrastructure project in Fernhill, on the fringes of southern Glasgow.

There an impressive approach transformed the former site of Blairbeth Golf Club into the eye-catching, and hugely popular, Fernbrae Meadows. Improvement works were jointly funded by NatureScot’s Green Infrastructure Fund, South Lanarkshire Community Benefit Fund and SLC to the value of £975,000 and were completed in November 2019.

The transformation is stunning. Visitors and locals can use active travel paths which meander between swathes of wildflower meadows, created specifically to improve biodiversity and create interest. Other works include the creation of wetland habitat, 50 new allotments, a two-hectare water meadow, the planting of around 4,000 native wildflower plugs, along with native woodland and hedgerow planting.

Fernbrae Meadows in glorious colour

There is a welcome community emphasis at Fernbrae Meadows.  A truly impressive number of schools have engaged with the site here. In all 13 primary, two secondary school and various nursery groups are using the site. There is a health-walk group, an allotment society and a weekly litter pick. The Friends of Fernbrae Meadows community group secured an Action Earth grant in 2019 to create meadows and for marginal pond planting and is working with the British Dragonfly Society on their People for Ponds project to improve the habitats for wildlife.

Little wonder that in 2020 Fernbrae Meadows was shortlisted for the SURF (Scotland’s Regeneration Forum) Awards as ‘Scotland’s Most Improved Place’.

People are certainly noticing the excellent work taking place in South Lanarkshire. And be it in East Kilbride, Carluke, Blantyre, Hamilton or Fernhill, the message is consistent – pollinator-friendly work is the way forward.

A healthy diet for fussy eaters

By Athayde Tonhasca

Pollen, the fertilizing agent that carries the male gametes (reproductive cells) of flowering plants and grasses, is packed with protein, starch, sugars, fats, vitamins, and inorganic salts: carotenoids and flavonoids add the colouring. This rich resource wouldn’t go untapped by many insects and mites. Among them, bees are the ultimate palynivores (pollen eaters).

To us humans, one pollen grain is indistinguishable from the next: it’s that granular yellow stuff that may cause seasonal allergies such as hay fever. But pollen of different plant species comprises a smorgasbord of chemicals. Protein, by far the most important nutrient as the source of vital amino acids, ranges from 2 to 60% of pollen dry mass. The composition and amount of other essential nutrients vary as well. Some pollen contains secondary metabolites such as alkaloids and glycosides, which are harmful to some bees: buttercups and related species (Ranunculus spp.) for example are toxic to honey bees. Pollen grains of some plant families are coated with a sticky substance called pollenkitt, which probably helps pollination. But just as some people can’t digest lactose, some bees can’t digest pollenkitt.

Miscellaneous pollen grains © Dartmouth College Electron Microscope Facility, Wikipedia Creative Commons

Bees have adapted to the range of pollen quality by adopting diversified diets: most species are polylectic, that is, they collect pollen from various unrelated plants (as opposed to oligolectic species, which specialize on a few related plants). By taking pollen from many sources, bees get a balanced diet and reduce the relative intake of harmful chemicals. When polylectic bees are fed pollen from a single source, they often fail to reproduce or die. The need for nutritional diversity has deep implications for bee conservation. 

Agri-environment programmes throughout Europe have promoted the creation of flower-rich habitats to reduce the impact of agriculture intensification on pollinators. Field margins and other non-crop areas are planted with seed mixtures, and the practice has made a difference: bumble bee declines have slowed or sometimes reversed in recent decades. As a bonus, honey bees and butterflies have benefited as well. However, most solitary bees (which make up about 90% of the approximately 250 species of bees in UK) have been unintentionally left out.

Two of our solitary bees: a miner bee © Pauline Smith, and a leafcutter bee © Saxifraga – Pieter van Breugel

It turns out that seed mixtures comprise a high proportion of legumes (family Fabaceae) such as red clover, white clover and vetch. These plants are good for bumble bees, but are not the best or not suitable at all for many solitary bees. Most species get their pollen from plants such as smooth hawk’s-beard (Crepis capillaris)scentless mayweed(Tripleurospermum inodorum), field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), rough chervil (Chaerophyllum temulum), meadow crane’s-bill (Geranium pratense) and dandelions (Taraxacum agg.). Species from the families Asteraceae (daisies, marigold, snakeroot, tansy, thistles) and Apiaceae (cow parsley, wild carrot, ground elder) are also important. 

Weeds or food for pollinators? Smooth hawk’s-beard (L) © Michael Becker, Wikipedia Creative Commons, and wild mustard (R) © Hectonichus, Wikipedia Creative Commons.

These plants grow naturally in and around arable fields, but some of them are not welcomed by farmers because of their invasiveness. Wild mustard (Sinapsis arvensis) and wild rose (Rosa canina) for example are excellent sources of pollen for solitary bees, but the first is a serious weed of oilseed rape fields and other crops, and the latter is a climbing shrub, not suitable for field margin management. 

The inclusion of weeds in seed mixtures may not be an option, but a more tolerant attitude towards them would be beneficial and safe. A wild plant does not become a weed until it starts competing with crops, and this threshold may take a while – or it may never be reached. The same principle applies to our gardens: we don’t need to kill weeds willy-nilly for questionable aesthetic reasons.

As in so many areas of conservation, the answer lies in finding a middle ground. We need to cultivate an appreciation for wildness over manicured fields and gardens because just as a varied diet is best for human health, a diversified flora represents an essential buffet for bees and other pollinators.

Sun, sand and sea… and a pollinator or two as well

Sun, sand and sea are a classic mix, and St Cyrus National Nature Reserve has a fair amount of all three.  Visitors enjoy the stunning open beach, rolling waves and the dunes. 

P1010944 copy_JPG_m185774

The scenery at St Cyrus is breathtaking. Big skies, open views and a sense of freedom make this a wonderful place to visit at any time. However, the array of wildflowers that nestle in and around the dunes make a summer visit particularly special.

Those flowers receive admiring glances and also draw pollinators – lots of them.

In truth the reserve is an insect haven. Not so long ago Buglife conducted an SNH-funded survey for the  bordered brown lacewing to make the public more aware of this special insect, which hadn’t been recorded at St Cyrus since 1935. Insects are often under-recorded, and the introductions to the public and workshops help raise awareness and can only result in better recording of species.

Awareness-raising is a vital part of helping insects, and is a key strand of Scotland’s Pollinator Strategy.

That’s why a pollinator trail was recently installed at St Cyrus. Spurred on by reserve manager Therese Alampo, the trail introduces visitors to the value of pollinators and explains what we can do to help them.

A variety of subjects are covered on the interpretation panels and as walkers head out from the visitor centre on the mile long trail, they are sure to be entertained and hopefully inspired.


Introductory panels about the best ways to help pollinators and the importance of flowers are followed by an insight into the life of the tawny mining bee, which has been spotted nesting near the car park.  There is also a panel making a plea for a scruffy corner in any garden as a great way to help hard-pressed pollinators.

Trees and shrubs get a glowing reference too, before the visitor is introduced to the fascinating black-headed leaf-cutter bee.  The trail ends with panels looking at hoverflies and wasps, which occasionally are mistaken for each other.

School visitors can turn their day into a real adventure as they pick up one of Therese’s pollinator challenge sheets and may end their day clutching a Pollinator Certificate.

So, St Cyrus remains a sandy delight. The dunes, the beach, the seabirds and the flowery trail will continue to attract visitors, and now the prospect of learning a little about our vital pollinators might just lure a few more to this reserve, once the current crisis has passed.

Find out more about St Cyrus National Nature Reserve.

We are delighted that Pauline Smith, a noted photographer, has given us two fabulous leafcutter-bee videos to share with you … these are available on our twitter account @ScotPollinators