A Berwickshire bee keeper has called on Scottish Borders Council to employ a biodiversity action plan - including a more sensitive approach to maintaining grass verges.
Graham White, of newly formed charity ‘Friends of the Bees’, was alarmed by SBC’s arguably overzealous removal of flowers growing on a verge in Coldstream. And he says this is just one of many examples of a ‘war against nature’ in the borders.
“Birds, bees, butterflies and bumblebees are vanishing from the countryside like snow off a dyke,” Mr White said. “Just ask any person over 60 and they will tell you how wildlife was an everyday aspect of their childhood.”
He pointed to pesticides and herbicides as the main culprit for this, but says over-vigorous grass cutting, and the resulting habitat loss, is also playing a part.
“Pesticides and herbicides are having an enormous impact,” Mr White explained. “Most farmers’ fields are like ecological deserts these days - so the roadside verges and hedgerows are the last wildlife oasis - the last place where bees, birds and butterflies can find anything to eat. Pollen, nectar, wildflower seeds and fruits - the verges are their last larder, apart from gardens and designated nature reserves.”
A freedom of information request submitted to Scottish Borders Council in 2009 revealed that the authority did not have an ecological protection scheme in place; unlike its neighbouring authorities in Northumberland and Dumfries and Galloway. “If Devon, Northumberland and Dumfries and Galloway can all have sensitive wildlife policies for their grasscutting and verge maintenance regimes, why can’t we?” Mr White asked. “We have hundreds of miles of roadside verges and hedgerows which could form the greatest wildlife habitat in the entire Borders, if it was managed for wildife, rather than ‘tidiness’.
“SBC could declare its roadside verges a ‘Bee Friendly Zone’ - at zero cost - and could save a large amount of money into the bargain,” he added.
Scottish Borders Council is about to review some of its grass cutting procedures.
A spokesperson said: “The council has a routine grass maintenance schedule and the safety of people travelling in the Borders is a key factor in this.
“Biodiversity forms part of our strategic planning and we are about to undertake a review of parks and open spaces with regards to cutting.
“Biodiversity is an important issue and consultation with members of the public will be part of this process.”