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Brighton Council require new developments to include Bee Bricks

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Brighton Council requires new developments to include Bee Bricks.

An initiative in Brighton aimed at helping protect the bee population is criticised by scientists who have warned that more harm could be done than good. The council in Brighton has passed a planning condition for all new developments over five metres high will have to include swift boxes and special bricks with holes known as bee bricks. They will provide nesting and hibernating space for solitary bees.

However, scientists have warned that the proposals will not improve biodiversity, with some arguing that it could make matters worse for bees if the holes are not cleaned properly and attract mites or encourage the spread of disease.

The idea was first raised in 2019 by councillor Robert Nemeth, and the condition was attached to all planning permissions after 1 April 2020.

Prof’ Dave Goulson, a professor of biology at the University of Sussex, said he had tried a bee brick out and that the holes were not deep enough to be “ideal homes for bees” but “are probably better than nothing”. He added: “Bee bricks seem like a displacement activity to me. We are kidding ourselves if we think having one of these in every house is going to make any real difference for biodiversity. Far more substantial action is needed, and these bricks could easily be used as ‘greenwash’ by developers.”

Adam Hart, an entomologist and professor of science communication at the university of Gloucestershire, said that sometimes “well-meaning interventions can have unwanted consequences”.

Nemeth, who is also a beekeeper, said: “There’s a well-known saying in the beekeeping world that if you ask 100 different beekeepers a question then you get 101 different answers.

“It’s going to take some years yet to establish the degree of effectiveness of bee bricks but it’s heartening to know that studies are under way. What is definite though is that carrying on with the status quo of ignoring nature in many new-build properties is a biodiversity disaster of the highest order.”

Bees in Britain

  • There are about 270 species of bee in Britain, just under 250 of which are solitary bees that live alone, although often nest close to one another.
  • Solitary bees in Britain are highly diverse, and so are their nesting habits. Most British species nest in the ground, excavating their own nest.
  • The honeybee is probably the best-known bee. They live socially and are led by a queen and serviced by male drones and female worker bees.
  • The bee population is thought to have declined in the UK since the 1970s. For example, the number of managed honeybee hives in England dropped by 50% between 1985 and 2005, and 67% of common widespread moth species have declined since the 1970s.
  • Since 1900, the UK has lost 13 species of bee, and a further 35 are considered under threat of extinction.
  • The decline in population is thought to be because of changes in land use, which has led to habitat loss. Other issues affecting bees include disease, pesticides, pollution and climate change.
  • One of the best ways of helping bees is thought to be by planting flowers rich in nectar.

Source: The Gaurdian

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