Sharon Casey, Ecologist at Cork County Council, tells us about their plans for pollinators.
Cork Council Council has recently prepared pollinator plans for land it manages in several towns around the county. Supported by the National Biodiversity Action Plan fund with co-funding provided by Cork County Council, these have been developed in accordance with the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan guidelines.
Work on the first of these, the Midleton Pollinator Plan, commenced in 2019, led by Janette Kenny, and that plan is now well into its implementation stage. The experience garnered in Midleton is being used to inform projects in other towns around the county, and work is now underway to develop plans for more towns, to develop a new pollinator friendly roadside management policy and to provide training and supports to both council staff and community groups all around the county who are interested in getting involved.
What’s in the Midleton Pollinator Plan?
As part of the Midleton Pollinator Plan, the mowing regime in two of the town parks has been altered to allow native plants to flower. These areas are cut once only at the end of the season (late August or early September), the cuttings are let lie for 24 hours to allow seed to drop, then lifted and disposed of off-site. Clean cuttings (areas not at risk of dog fouling) are given to a local farmer. The edges are frequently cut to frame the areas which are being allowed to grow. Pathways have been cut through the parks to allow the public to access these areas. A few narrow strips of grass are left long over the winter period for bumblebees. Grass is kept short in areas of the parks that are used for open play or picnicking.
Also in Midleton, Council-maintained flower beds are planted with pollinator supporting perennial flowers, and pollinator-friendly native trees and bulbs are planted when opportunities arise. Road verges are managed as long-flowering meadows (cut once a year), or as short-flowering meadows, (cut every six weeks). Cuttings are removed using a zero-grazer which is hired in and are disposed of to a nearby waste centre where they are composted. Sightlines and drainage edges are maintained short throughout the season.
For the past two years, Cork County Council has overseen scientific monitoring of the impacts of the pollinator friendly management in Midleton, which is informing the ongoing implementation of the plan. The findings indicate there has been an increase in floral resources across most of the survey areas, and that that pollinator diversity and abundance is strongly related to the abundance of suitable floral resources.
What’s next for Cork?
Following on from the success in Midleton, and similar plans for Carrigaline, Kinsale, Bantry, Macroom, Kanturk and Fermoy in 2021, Cork County Council is now finalising pollinator plans for the towns of Youghal, Cobh, Skibbereen, Mitchelstown and Dunmanway. These will help to guide how the Council manages publicly owned spaces within the towns, in a way which is sympathetic to bees and other insects which pollinate our flowering plants.
This spring, training events will take place for local authority staff and community groups to kickstart the implementation of these plans.
To further show its support for the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, the Council has signed up to be a supporting partner to the plan. The Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Gillian Coughlan said: “Pollination is essential for plant reproduction and for sustaining healthy food as well as other important crops. However, one-third of Ireland’s bee species are threatened with extinction because of the reduction in the number of flowers and safe nesting sites. Bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies and butterflies need sufficient supplies of food in the form of a range of flowering plants. These insects also need nesting places in long grass, burrows and crevices in wood or old walls. Cork County Council is working hard to make progress in this area.”
Chief Executive of Cork County Council Tim Lucey added: “The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is asking all of us to take simple actions to help reverse the decline of our pollinator species. Cork County Council is happy to sign up and be a supporter. One of the actions is to manage our green spaces less intensively. This protects our existing natural habitats and allows wild plants to flower and set seed. The good news is that this approach often requires less physical effort and can be less expensive. We have already seen the benefits of these guidelines in County Cork with hundreds of rare orchids appearing in Midleton, for example.”
Through these plans, Cork County Council, with partners from Tidy Towns and other community groups, will manage public spaces in these towns, to provide more food and better sheltering opportunities for our wild pollinator species. With the launch of a new All-Ireland Pollinator Plan for 2021-2025, we look forward to working alongside the National Biodiversity Data Centre to expand the project even further and to include additional county towns and villages in the near future and to provide training to our staff and support to interested community groups.
Sharon Casey, Ecologist, Cork County Council