Keep the Buzz in Leighton Buzzard

South Beds Friends of the Earth are helping bees and butterflies practically by giving them food and homes across Leighton Buzzard in 19 bee-friendly sites across Leighton Buzzard.

There’s a map of the first 18 sites here.

We are always happy to welcome anyone who is interested in helping look after the sites, from simply keeping an eye on the area to taking pictures of bees and butterflies at the site, to helping maintain the sites through weeding out the grass so that the wildflowers can get established, and sometimes digging out new areas so we can plant more flowers.

You can find more details about these sites here.

Bees, butterflies and other  wildlife have suffered a major decline due to loss of habitat and pesticides. Bees are crucial for pollinating 75% of our food, such as carrots, almonds, apples, tomatoes and strawberries, and it would cost £1.7 billion a year to hand-pollinate our crops if we lost our bees.

So as a result of the Bee Cause Campaign, and with the support of the RHS, Wildlife Trusts, Women’s Institute, National Trust and the National Farmers Union, the government are calling on all landowners, including councils, farmers, Network Rail and Highways England, to do five simple actions to help bees:

  1.   Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees
  2.  Let your garden grow wild
  3.  Cut your grass less often
  4.  Don’t disturb insect nest and hibernation spots
  5.  Think carefully about whether to use pesticides

South Beds Friends of the Earth, in partnership with Leighton Linslade Town Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, local businesses, schools and residents, have created and continue to maintain 19 areas of wildflowers for nectar and pollen, as well as leaving stems, long grass etc for hibernation. There are 7 areas owned by the Town Council Areas, 7 owned by Central Bedfordshire Council, two in schools, platform 1 at Leighton Buzzard station, and other organisations including the narrow-gauge railway, local shops, the Jobcentre and other organisations. For several years, Leighton-Linslade Town Council have given us a generous grant to help towards the cost of the work on their seven sites, for which we are very grateful. The project would not have happened without their generous support and advice.

In 2014 the Environment Minister Lord De Mauley visited our work and as a result Leighton Buzzard became a national case study for helping bees, and in 2017 South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth won a Bees Needs Champions Award from DEFRA. We have also had international recognition in Nature’s Keepers.

Did you know?

There are over 267 species of bee, only one of which is the honey bee which we all know, that lives in a hive. There are 24 species of bumble bee, and only bumble bees are able to pollinate tomatoes. There are 250 types of solitary bee who live alone rather than in a nest; many of them lay their eggs in a neat row in a stem, like the insect houses you can buy made with bamboos or holes drilled in blocks of wood, and so on. Solitary bees are very important for pollinating many different crops; for example, red mason bees are 120 times more efficient than honey bees at pollinating apple trees.

We have lost 98% of our wildflower meadows since World War 2. When my mother was a child, she picked baskets and baskets of cowslips to make cowslip wine as the fields were full of cowslips, but nowadays it would be difficult to pick enough for a small bag and in any case it is illegal to pick wildflowers.

We want to give everyone, adults and children, in Leighton Buzzard an  opportunity to enjoy nature, wildness and lots of flowers in their everyday lives.

Sir David Attenborough launched the State of Nature Report 2016, which said that “we must work together; Governments, conservationists, businesses and individuals, to help it. Millions of people in the UK care very passionately about nature and the environment and I believe that we can work together to turn around the fortunes of wildlife.”