LOCAL COMMUNITIES ACTIONS TO HELP POLLINATORS
Providing food, shelter and safety
To help pollinators we need to ensure that they have food, shelter and safety from chemicals. The actions suggested will provide this in your local community. The more of these actions you can take the better.
Many pollinator friendly actions simply require us to manage the land in a different way than we have become used to. It is not about letting the landscape go wild, but about managing it in a more sustainable way so that pollinators can survive and continue to provide us with their vital service.
We have suggested actions that are not costly and in some instances may lead to cost savings. Multiple actions are suggested so that you can consider your own local community and decide which actions would work best and at which location. In all cases, public health and safety should be the key consideration.
“Protect pollinators so that you can grow your own fruit and vegetables, shop for local produce and
have flowers and wildlife in your local landscape”
Identify and protect existing areas that are good for pollinators. Most local communities will already have some areas that are very good for pollinators and are acting as refuges in an otherwise inhospitable landscape. The most important thing you can do is to recognise and protect these.
Protect existing sources of food and shelter for pollinators Where these exist, you should protect them in your local area: flowering hedgerows (food), patches of wildflowers on waste ground (food), small wild areas with bramble/ivy (food), existing earth banks (shelter), dry stone walls (shelter).
• Signage can be used to identify to the public areas within the local community that are important for pollinators.
Reduce the frequency of mowing of grassy areas
If you have areas of grass, reducing the frequency of mowing allows common wildflowers such as Clovers, Knapweed and Bird’s-foot-trefoil to naturally grow amongst the long grass. This is the most cost-effective way to provide food for pollinators and other insects.
The following suggested actions (2-4) can be carried out side-by-side, transforming a large expanse of green grass to a mosaic of flowering areas of different heights. If the original grassed area is used for sports or picnicking, identify which parts are used in this way and retain these as short grass, framing them with the pollinator areas.
Note: there will be areas in your local community where it is not appropriate to have long grass due to health and safety concerns about littering or dog fouling. You should also avoid having long grass on verges that the public use for walking or running.
Areas where these actions might apply in a local community are: parks, roadside verges, pavement verges, greenways, roundabouts, off-road walking/cycle routes, waterway towpaths, housing estates, school grounds, hospital grounds, old graveyards. In some cases it might involve working with local authorities or relevant NGOs.
Reduce mowing and aim to create a wildflower meadow Meadows managed in the following way will allow wildflowers to bloom throughout the pollinator season. A further benefit is that bumblebees are provided with an
undisturbed area for nesting. Over a number of years, the area will become more and more flower-rich with local species that are adapted to the site’s conditions – all without spending money on wildflower seed!
1 Identify areas in the local community where it may be possible to allow a grassy meadow to grow
2 Wait until April to do the first grass cut – this allows the first flush of Dandelions
3 During the summer, let the grass grow long, perhaps cutting paths through the middle or keeping a short border at its edge to make it look tidier and allow the public to enjoy the resource
4 Cut again in early September. However if the grass growth is very strong and the vegetation is falling over under its own weight, cut sooner e.g. July and again in September. After a few years as soil fertility is lowered, this earlier cut will no longer be necessary and one cut at the end of the summer will be enough
5 The grass cuttings should be removed after each cut to reduce soil fertility over
time. If the area is large and accessible to a tractor it can be baled for hay or haylage. Otherwise rake it off the meadow area and compost it or use it as mulch or dispose of it as green waste
6 Optional extra: collect wildflower seed locally and sow in trays and grow-on as small plants (plugs) which can be added to the meadow in spring and autumn
Create a short flowering ‘6-week meadow’ Identify areas of grass that could be cut on a 6-weekly rotation to allow Clovers and Bird’s-foot-trefoil to flower. This will provide food for pollinators where shortly mown grass does not. Such areas could be beside areas of shortly mown grass, a path or a meadow.
Let the Dandelions bloom! Identify areas that will be mown under existing regimes, but aim to carry out the first grass cut of the year in April after the first flush of Dandelions, but before they set seed. Dandelions are a vital food
source for bees in spring
Pollinator friendly planting
Traditionally, a lot of deliberate planting in public spaces has been with annuals such as Begonia, Primula or Busy Lizzie. Unfortunately these are not good sources of pollen or nectar (as they have been bred to be very “showy”) and do not provide food for bees and other insects. There are many other plants that can look similarly attractive but will also support our pollinators.
Areas where these actions might apply in a local community are: community gardens, roundabouts, road verges, parks or squares, housing estates, areas surrounding sports pitches, schools, car parks, shopping centres etc.
Clover lawn Identify small areas where grass could be entirely replaced with a permanent clover mix. Red and white clovers will provide colour, and are a very important food source for bees.
Flowering trees and shrubs Incorporate a mix of pollinator friendly trees and shrubs into the local community that will flower throughout the season [list in appendix]. An orchard can be a wonderful addition for pollinators and the community.
Perennial flowers for pollinators Incorporate pollinator friendly perennial plants into the local community to
provide food for pollinators from spring through to autumn [list in appendix].
Annual flowers for pollinators Work with local authorities to ensure a component of annual planting in
parks is with pollinator friendly annual plants – single rather than double flowered varieties [list in appendix].
Pollinator friendly urban planters Identify some urban planters or hanging baskets where the standard annual bedding mix could be replaced by perennial pollinator friendly plants [list in appendix].
Pollinator friendly roundabouts Work with local authorities to identify some roundabouts that could be
planted in a pollinator friendly way e.g., bulbs (Crocus, Alliums) or pollinator friendly perennial plants in centre.
Plant a native wildflower meadow Identify areas where it may be possible to create a native wildflower meadow using commercially purchased seed. This would be more flower-rich than the meadow in Action 2 but it is also more costly and requires careful planning and management. Please be aware that most sites will be unsuited to the immediate creation of a wildflower meadow due to high soil fertility, making it difficult to maintain after year 1 (and therefore very poor value for money). If you do have a suitable site, it is very important to buy a pollinator friendly seed mix that has been grown in Ireland from native wildflowers and is suitable for your soil type. See website: How-to-guide on creating and managing a native wildflower meadow.
Provide wild pollinator nesting habitat: hedgerows, earth banks and hotels
Nesting habitat for wild bees (bumblebees and solitary bees) is unobtrusive and easy to create. Wild bees live in small colonies and are entirely focused on finding enough pollen and nectar to feed themselves and their offspring. They are not aggressive, have no interest in interacting with humans, and do not present any risk to the public.
Bumblebees nest in long grass, often at the base of a hedgerow. We have 62 species (types) of solitary bees who are mining bees. They nest by burrowing into bare ground or south/east facing banks of bare earth (soil, sand, clay, peat). The remaining 15 solitary bee species are cavity nesting bees who nest in south/east facing stone walls, masonry, wooden structures or commercially available bee nest boxes. Areas where these actions might apply in a local community are: existing hedgerows, roadsides, verges, community buildings, housing estates, riverbanks, any
free common land where bee hotels could be kept (avoid popular areas that may be prone to vandalism).
Hedgerows for pollinators Flowering hedgerows that contain Hazel, Willow, Blackthorn and Hawthorn provide
food in spring when wild bees come out of hibernation. Bramble is a good source of food in summer, and Ivy in the autumn. Bumblebees often nest in long grass at the base of hedgerows.
Where hedgerows exist:
1 Cut hedgerows every three years (outside the bird breeding season) to encourage flowering for pollinators and fruiting for birds. Avoid having all the hedges cut the same year, so that there is always some that will bloom and fruit in the area every year or cut one third of the hedge annually.
2 Make sure the base of hedgerows are not sprayed. This will allow flowering plants like Clovers, Vetches and Knapweed to provide additional food throughout the season and ensures nesting bees are safe.
3 Keep vegetation sparse on any sandy earth, or earth and stone banks e.g. by strimming, weeding, cutting, to provide nest sites for mining solitary bees.
4 If vegetation beside and under hedgerows needs to be cut, do so between September and March to allow bumblebees to nest during the summer.
5 For additional information see website: How-to-guide for creating and managing hedgerows
Earthbanks and drystone walls for pollinators Where earth banks and drystone walls exist, visit them on sunny evenings in May–September to see if they are being used by nesting solitary bees. You will see small bees returning laden with yellow pollen. If you are lucky enough to find such nesting areas, protect these. Make sure no chemical sprays are used. Mark the area on maps and consider identifying the site as special and under protection from sprays for bees with a small sign or plaque. Using just a spade, you can create and maintain earth banks for mining solitary bees where natural ridges/banks occur. This the best and most cost effective way to create nesting habitat for solitary bees. Once established, they should be maintained by manual scraping back to bare soil on an annual basis. See website: How-to-guide for creating wild pollinator nesting habitat.
Holes in wood for pollinators Where wooden fencing exists in public areas, consider drilling small south or east facing holes for cavity nesting solitary bees. These holes should be 10cm in depth and 4-8mm diameter. A range of different diameters is best.They are added once, ideally at a height of 1.5-2m (or as high as possible). See website: How-to-guide for creating wild pollinator nesting habitat.
Bee hotels for pollinators Incorporate small numbers of solitary bee nest boxes into the local community for cavity nesting solitary bees. Bee hotels can be useful and are a good awareness raising tool, but actions 13 and 14 are preferable ways to create nest sites. A number of small hotels is better than one large one in terms of minimising the risks of disease and predators killing the bees. See website: How-to-guide for creating wild pollinator nesting habitat.
Reduce the use of pesticides
In some cases, the use of pesticides (insecticides, fungicides, herbicides) is necessary e.g., the use of herbicides along railway tracks to ensure the health and safety of train passengers. In other cases, we have fallen into a pattern of using them as a way of tidying or sanitising our local areas. To minimise negative impacts on pollinators it is important that pesticides are used sustainably. This means they should only be used when necessary, and efforts should be made to minimise their impact on non-target species like bees. Pesticides should always be applied exactly according to manufacturer guidelines.
Eliminate the use of pesticides Identify some areas where the use of pesticides could be eliminated. This could be streets/areas where your group is willing to take responsibility for manual weed control. Most herbicide use is along edging or tree bases that mowers can’t access. Identify areas of south facing edging that could not be sprayed to provide solitary bee nesting habitat.
Ensure best practice where the use of pesticides cannot be avoided Identify areas that could be spot treated rather than with the use of blanket sprays. Spray in dry conditions with low wind speed to prevent drifting. Spray after sunset to avoid direct contact of pollinators with chemicals.
Raise public awareness of pollinators within the local area
For the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020 to be successful we need to raise public awareness so that people know the importance of pollinators and understand why we all need to take action. Local communities can play a vital role in this regard.
Promote the Junior Pollinator Plan Promote the junior version of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020 to local schools and youth groups. This can be downloaded from the website
Raise awareness within local businesses Promote the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan to local businesses and encourage them to make their outdoor spaces pollinator friendly or to sponsor local pollinator friendly actions.
Put up signage Put up signage explaining the importance of pollinators and what is being done locally to support the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. Templates that can be used to create signage can be downloaded from the website.
Facilitate or deliver training Facilitate or deliver training programmes locally on pollinators and how to take action to protect them. Resources will be available to allow interested parties to deliver training on: creating nest sites for wild pollinators; identification of common pollinator species; how to participate in the AllIreland Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme; collection, storage and use of local wildflower seed to improve areas that are being managed as small grassy meadows in parks, schools, along greenways etc.
Tracking progress and recognition for efforts
Progress in the implementation of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020 will be carefully tracked. Success is not measured in having the Plan, but by knowing that it is working. A publicly available online mapping system will track pollinator friendly actions taken across the island and provide recognition to those who are helping.The All-Ireland Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme is a citizen science initiative managed by the National Biodiversity Data Centre. It will be used to track changes in wild pollinators as the Plan is implemented.
Log your ‘Actions for Pollinators’ on the mapping system A publicly available online mapping system (Actions for Pollinators) will allow all those who take pollinator friendly actions to log their location and the action(s) taken. This will track the build-up of food, shelter and safety for pollinators in the landscape. It is hoped local communities will use the system to log what they are doing and show the creation of pollinator resources in their area. Once established, the system will help coordinate efforts locally between community groups, Local Authorities, Schools etc. www.pollinators.ie
Take part in the Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme Identify interested people and set up at least one bumblebee monitoring scheme walk within your local community. In this scheme volunteers walk a fixed 1-2km route once a between March and October and record the diversity and abundance of bumblebees that they see. The scheme is run by the National Biodiversity Data Centre who provide full support and training.The scheme is vital in tracking what is happening with wild pollinators in the landscape, and can be used to assess the effectiveness of any pollinator friendly actions that are being taken locally. If interested in taking part contact: email@example.com
Enter the Tidy Towns Pollinator award If you are in the Republic of Ireland, make specific mention in your annual
submission to the Tidy Towns competition (and your 3/5 year Tidy Towns Plan) that you are supporting the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. Enter the Local Authority Pollinator Award in the national Tidy Towns competition.
Examples of pollinator friendly plants are provided below.
Please note that these are not exhaustive lists. There are lots of other species that are also pollinator friendly. By observing bees in parks, gardens or even garden centres you can often see yourself which species they prefer.
Horse chestnut (May-June)
Non-native Willows (Feb-March)
e.g, Salix aegyptica, Salix hastata
Perennial plants are generally better sources of pollen and nectar than annuals. They are also cost effective as they grow and flourish over the following years.
e.g., Helleborus orientalis
e.g., Calamintha nepeta spp nepeta
e.g., Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’, ‘Walkers
e.g., Lamium ‘Pink Chablis’, Lamium mac.
‘Album’, Lamium galeobdolon
Rock rose (May-July)
Allium (June-Aug) e.g., Allium
aflatunense, Allium christophii, Allium
Helenium(June-Aug) e.g., Helenium
e.g., Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, ‘May
Night’, ‘East Friesland’
e.g., Scabious atropurpurea varieties
e.g., Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’
Viper’s bugloss (June-July)
Aster (July-Oct) e.g., Aster ageratoides
‘Asran’, Aster × frikartii ‘Mönch’
Globe thistle (July-Aug)
Liatris (July-October) e.g., Liastris
Perovskia (July-Oct) e.g., Perovskia
Stonecrop (July-Sept) e.g., Sedum
Verbena (July-Oct) e.g., Verbena
Eupatorium (Aug-Sept) e.g.,
Perennial plants are generally better sources of pollen and nectar than annuals. They are also cost effective as they grow and flourish over the following years. In some cases particularly appropriate varieties are listed, otherwise any species/variety of these plants will be good for pollinators.