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Grass swirls and wildflowers: What city councils are doing to help save the bees

Pesticides are still in use, but being cut down on by councils in an effort to promote biodiversity.

Parks & Recreation County Cork.
Parks & Recreation County Cork.
Image: Cafe Chico

LAST MONTH, FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin suggested that the lawn at Leinster House be allowed to grow into a wildflower meadow in order to encourage biodiversity.

But long before the political ‘Green wave’, city and county councils have been working to promote biodiversity in their areas through small measures like allowing patches of land to grow wild flowers.

The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is a national plan to try and halt the decline in bee species in Ireland, as a third of 98 bee species are at risk of extinction.

In that plan, it says that “it is not about letting the landscape go wild, but about managing it in a way that is sustainable for pollinators”.

This could mean cutting the grass in a field, garden or park, but leaving a strip of uncut grass where wildflowers can grow. Some councils do this by cutting the grass less often.

Waterford

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Waterford City and County Council said that it has adopted a number of basic principles to adhere to the pollinator plan:

Some areas undertake grass cutting operations within and on the approaches to the smaller towns and villages across the county. While there is a need to maintain regular grass cutting in the more ‘formal’ parts in order to preserve a clean and tidy presentation, we have reduced the frequency of grass cutting particularly along the wider grass verges on the approaches that are a feature in certain areas.

Reducing the frequency of grass cutting to 5 cuts (and lifts) per annum or allowing areas to become meadows where the grass is cut only once per annum allows wildflowers to flower providing very significant pollinator benefits.”

This is something that can be done at an individual level, too: when cutting your grass, a strip can be left to grow long where wildflowers can grow, allowing bees to do their work and more flowers to grow in your garden.

stats Source: Biodiversity Ireland

Waterford Council also said that it refrains from using pesticides where possible:

“It’s accepted that we need to use pesticides to control growth in certain areas but the use of pesticides is reduced to the absolute minimum required and is very specifically targeted.”

It has also adopted “pollinator friendly practices” on the Waterford Greenway and Kilbarry Nature Park in Waterford City and has developed pollinator planting schemes in many landscaped areas, the council said in a statement.

Galway City Council told TheJournal.ie that it has had a policy within its parks & recreation department for a number of years to manage a range of areas in locations across the city including Merlin Woods, Terryland Forest Park, Carn Ard Park, Ballyloughane Amenity Land, the open space between Grattan Road and Beach Court and other smaller areas “which would either be allow ‘wild’ growth or would receive a very limited number of cuts (ie, 1 or 2 at most) during the growing season”.

This is balanced with our grass management and planting regime in more urban spaces including within estates, on sports fields, etc which would have a more frequent cutting.
This obviously facilitates the development of wildflowers and continues to encourage pollinators contributing to the continuing biodiversity of our city. 

Galway City Council said that it is “proactive on these issues through the implementation of its Biodiversity Plan adopted in 2014, existing departmental strategies and plans and through new initiatives like the Health Green Spaces which is linked to the National Pollinator Plan”.

Tweet by @Gavin Sheridan Source: Gavin Sheridan/Twitter

Cork and Dublin

Cork City Council said it has a specific policy of letting areas within its parks, open spaces and amenity walks grow wildflowers in order to encourage biodiversity and pollinators. Areas being set aside are increasing considerably.

The parks that have meadow areas includes Ballincollig Regional Park, Tramore Valley Park, the Lee Fields, and the Mahon Walkway.

In a statement, a spokesperson said that “Dublin City Council is a local authority partner signed up to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. As part of this, we are conducting various initiatives to improve areas for pollinators across the city.”

Limerick City and County Council was also asked for a statement. You can find out more about how to encourage biodiversity in your garden on the Biodiversity Ireland website here.

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