FERRYBANK’S Neighbourhood Park is likely to feature ‘pollinator action areas’ as part of Kilkenny County Council’s burgeoning Pollinator Programme.
Addressing the December meeting of the Piltown Municipal District, Kilkenny County Council Heritage Officer Dearbhala Ledwidge told Fianna Fáil Councillor Ger Frisby: “Claire Goodwin (the Council’s Landscape Architect) has identified a couple of locations within this area that could be managed more effectively for pollinators. It’s about leaving the grass growing longer and managing that effectively. There is a lot we could do on that particular site.”
Ms Ledwidge added: “We’re putting up signs right around the county in areas where we’re letting the grass grow that bit longer, to let people know what the Council is doing, to inform the public that there’s a reason why we’re taking such an approach.”
Said Cllr Frisby: “It’s a prime location for something like this, it’s standing out there waiting to be used exactly with something like this in mind, especially when it’s under development.”
Kilkenny County Council was the first local authority in the State to implement a Pollinator Framework Agreement under the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan last March, just a month before the Government declared a climate and biodiversity emergency.
Bees, as Ms Ledwidge noted, perform the vast majority of pollination in Ireland, with most of that work carried out by solitary bees “who live on their own and generally burrow in the ground and there’s 77 (solitary bee species) in Ireland”.
She added: “We’ve 20 species of bumble bee and only one species of honey bee and while they get a lot of attention as pollinators and while they are important, they’re actually a very minor part of the overall picture. Mostly what we’re talking about are the wild pollinators that live out in the countryside.”
Regarding the cultural shift required when it comes to grass cutting, Ms Ledwidge told Councillors: “A lot of grass is managed in such a way that it’s pretty much like a desert for pollinators. We have to look at how we can improve the management of that. It’s very important, where we can, to start mowing later in the year – that allows the dandelions to start flowering and to keep flowering: it’s the species that the bees rely on when they come out of hibernation in the winter.”
The nature of contracts for those hired to cut grass in addition to the disposal of grass will also need to be re-examined, she added. “We need to take the grass cuttings off rather than leaving it on – if you leave it on, that’s a source of nutrients for the grass and that’s not good for the pollinator species.”
According to the National Biodiversity Data Centre, one third of the island’s 98 bee species are threatened with extinction.
Said District Chairperson Eamon Aylward (FF): “What really needs to happen is a sea change in all our attitudes… pollinators are really important to the survival of the environment going forward.”