If Defra was really serious about saving pollinators, it would be greening its Smith Square roof for abundant forage.
The government’s pollinator strategy aims to encourage everyone to do their bit to help bees and other pollinators. Urging us to cut the grass less will allow clovers and dandelions (both excellent bee food) to flourish, and leaving piles of leaves and logs could provide nesting sites for hibernating insects.
The advice won’t prove popular with pristine gardeners, or council maintenance contractors paid per lawn mowed, but it would increase urgently-needed forage and habitat in our towns and cities, as will creating wildflower meadows on public land. Yet creating pollinator-friendly cities full of year-round nectar and pollen-rich flowers and shrubs in all available green space from roofs to window boxes and road verges means a shift in our thinking about what flowers are: no longer beautiful, fragrant objects for our pleasure but instead vital food for pollinators.
But encouraging people to help replace the 97% of wildflower-rich grasslands lost in the UK since the second world war will never be enough. In the countryside, paying farmers attractive subsidies to maintain hedgerows and strips of wildlife-friendly ground around arable fields and banning the use of pollinator-harming pesticides is the only way forward.
In urban areas, more bee-friendly trees, such as hazels and pussy willows, whose catkins provide early pollen, should be planted in our streets, parks and on the roofs of many new developments, as a condition of planning, to create pollinator-friendly corridors.
If Defra was really serious about saving pollinators it would be greening its Smith Square roof to provide abundant forage for all pollinators, rather than sticking honeybees hives on it.