Nectarworks Bumblebee Project

The North Pennines could soon be buzzing with bumblebees thanks to a new project that aims to boost the amount of nectar-producing plants in the area.

Bumblebee in Baldersdale garden

Bumblebee in Baldersdale garden

This summer, the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership will launch its Nectarworks programme which, with the help of a £370,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and a £20,000 grant from Northumbrian Water’s Branch Out fund, will focus on increasing the number of flower-rich grasslands and nectar gardens.

Through Nectarworks, the Partnership plans to work with smallholders and farmers who want to look after their hay meadows, and with gardeners and schools who want to develop their own flowery patches.

Specialist AONB staff will be on hand to give expert advice and guidance throughout the process from managing sites that already have flower-rich areas to sowing the first seeds with primary school gardeners.

The programme will then develop a ‘nectar source network map’ for the North Pennines which will track the areas that provide a plentiful food source for bumblebees and other wildlife, including butterflies and hoverflies,  and help to target the creation of new areas where there are gaps in the network

Rebecca Barrett, Project Development Officer at the AONB Partnership, said: “This funding is so important because it means we can make sure the last remnants of our flower-rich meadows are managed properly so they don’t disappear forever. It will also give people the chance to make a real difference to wildlife conservation in their own gardens.”

Recent research undertaken during the Partnership’s Hay Time project showed an urgent need to protect the vulnerable grasslands that provide food for a wealth of wildlife, especially bumblebees which have suffered a severe decline nationally in recent years.

Rebecca continued: “With Nectarworks we want to build on lessons learned during our Hay Time project. We found that once widespread flower-rich hay meadow habitats s are now very rare. We also found that many smallholders are keen both to support each other and to encourage the wildlife on their land, but perhaps don’t always have the right equipment or information to do this.

“With this grant we can work alongside the smallholders, helping them to access the training and machinery that they need and establishing a network that will be self-sustaining into the future.”

Despite their ability to withstand colder climates – which is the reason our northern bumblebees are more hairy than their southern cousins – it is thought the long, harsh winter will make the coming spring even more difficult for queen bees as they emerge from hibernation because few plants will be in flower.

After this severe winter the Nectarworks project is timelier than ever.

Rebecca said: “The work we’ve done on bumblebees has showed that gardens have a particularly important role to play in early spring when few flowers are blooming in the surrounding countryside. We plan to train volunteers in bumblebee identification so that they can survey people’s gardens and we will then be able to give advice to make them even better for our bees.”

The four-year Nectarworks project will begin in June.

Northumbrian Water’s conservation team leader, Stuart Pudney, said: “Our support for this innovative project demonstrates that as well as supplying vital services to customers and businesses across the region, we’re also committed to ensuring we do what we can to protect and enhance local communities and the environment. We encourage people to get involved and help to protect these important little creatures.”

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