Leeds meadow bid to attract bugs

A wildflower meadow close to Meynell Heights in Holbeck, Leeds. PIC: Mark Bickerdike
A wildflower meadow close to Meynell Heights in Holbeck, Leeds. PIC: Mark Bickerdike
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This scene of a summer meadow could be from the heart of the countryside.

But it was actually taken just outside Leeds city centre outside the Meynell Heights apartment block in Holbeck.

The flower meadow is one of a number which have been planted across the city by Leeds City Council and Leeds University as part of The Urban Pollinators Project.

The project wants to see how urban areas can be used to attract pollinating insects such as honey and bumble bees.

It follows a significant drop in the number of pollinating insect numbers across the UK.

Leeds is one of four cities to be included in the study, with 15 suitable locations in parks and alongside roadside verges identified over the past three years as the home for flower meadows.

Councillor Mark Dobson, the council’s executive member for the environment, said: “I am proud that the council is playing such an active role in looking at how we can make our urban environment more pollinator friendly through the planting and maintaining of new flower meadows across the city.

“These vitally important little insects play such an essential role in ensuring that so many of our staple foods, such as potatoes, beans, cabbages and fruit continue to make it on to our dinner plates.

“It is therefore vital that work like this is undertaken to see how best the current decline in pollinating insect numbers can be addressed. Leeds is one of four cities to be included in this project, and it will be very interesting to read the results of this study when they are shared next year.”

The council’s parks and countryside team is maintaining the different flower meadows.

Scientists over the summer have surveyed the insects and will publish their results at a conference next year. These findings will be used by land managers and garden owners about the best species of flowers to plant.

Just bee-ing good to polination

The domestic honey bee is just one of the insects experts hope to attract using the flower meadows.

But they also want to encourage visits by bumble bees, solitary bees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and even beetles.

The Leeds project is part of a three-year, £1.3m scheme involving scientists from four UK universities – Leeds, Bristol, Reading, and Edinburgh. A report called ‘The State of Nature’ published in May highlighted the steep decline across a swathe of the UK’s biodiversity.

Of the 3,148 species of native wildlife assessed by scientists, 60 per cent was found to be declining.

Reading University estimated that pollinating insects are worth £510 million to the agricultural economy every year.

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