Boost for butterflies, bees and beetles in West Sussex


Release date: 14 May 2019

The importance of pollinating insects such as butterflies, bumblebees and beetles is being spelled out in West Sussex.

A new ‘Pollinator Action Plan’ has been published by West Sussex County Council which sets out how these vital species will be protected.

“Pollinators are an integral part of our existence. Without them our food supply, wildlife and countryside would cease to exist,” said Deborah Urquhart, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Environment.

“There are over 4,000 species in the UK and impending habitat loss, pesticides and climate change are threatening their very existence.”

The council’s Pollinator Action Plan aims to help sustain pollinator species across the county, and is built around five central aims:

  1. To ensure the needs of pollinators are represented in local plans, policy and guidance where relevant.
  2. To protect, increase and enhance the amount of pollinator habitat in West Sussex, prevent any extinction and improve the status of any locally threatened species.
  3. To increase awareness of pollinators and their habitat needs amongst local residents, businesses and other landowners.
  4. To increase the contribution to pollinator conservation of land under the ownership of, or managed by the County Council.
  1. To improve knowledge and understanding of pollinators in the region.

Deborah added: “We were already looking at pollinators through our work to improve air quality and our ‘Better Breathing’ strategy, but this additional level of focus will now build on this and help us to ensure that the beauty and prosperity of our local environment continues for generations to come.”

The County Council has been running a ‘Notable Road Verge’ scheme since the 1970s and for over four decades has identified and managed over 50 miles of species-rich road verge to maintain their value for pollinators. 

The County Council also manages several countryside sites such as Fairmile Bottom and Halnaker Windmill where wildlife and biodiversity thrive, for the public to enjoy.

The meadow at Buchan Country Park is cut specifically to promote wildflower diversity to provide opportunities for a wide range of pollinators including bees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies. Glade management within woodland is undertaken to promote opportunities for woodland flowers and their pollinators.

Shared use paths such as Downs Link, Worth Way, and Forest Way are also managed to promote biodiversity, providing wildlife corridors within the landscape including shelter and food opportunities for pollinators.    

The County Council has a partnership with the Sussex Wildlife Trust to manage local wildlife sites - some of our most valuable wildlife areas which play an essential role as both a source from which pollinators can spread and also important stepping stones in the ecological landscape.

Henri Brocklebank, Director of Conservation at Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “We very much welcome the publication of West Sussex County Council’s pollination action plan. The plight of insects globally and in the UK is now well known with the 2016 State of Nature report telling us that 59% of British insects are in decline.  The report puts the UK as one of the worst places in the world for the state of its wildlife. This is shocking and we all need to do what we can to reverse these trends and West Sussex County Council should be applauded in developing their plan.”

West Sussex County Council will now work closely with contractors and partners to deliver the plan and will encourage schools, residents and businesses to get involved along the way.

Laurie Jackson, Farm Pollinator and Wildlife Advisor, Buglife, said: "It is great to see West Sussex County Council taking a lead in making a commitment on pollinator conservation in the county. This action plan sets the foundation for improving the prospects of our county's diverse pollinator community and identifies many opportunities for coordinated measures to be implemented."

Visit our Pollinator Action Plan to learn more and find out about the small changes you can take too.

Pollinators under threat:

Our pollinators are in trouble:

- Half of our 27 bumblebee species are in decline

- Three of these bumblebee species have already gone extinct

- Two-thirds of our moths are in long term decline.

- Across Europe 38% of bee and hoverfly species are in decline

- 71% of our butterflies are in decline.

The most significant factors leading to these declines in pollinator numbers include:

  1. Habitat loss – The most significant cause of decline is the loss and degradation of habitats which provide food, shelter and nesting sites for pollinators. The loss of wildflower-rich grasslands is one of

the most important issues. Over 3 million hectares of these habitats have been lost in England alone

since the 1930s, the loss being attributed to more intensive farming and urban/industrial


  1. Pesticides – There is growing evidence that the use of pesticides is having harmful effects on pollinators including honeybees, wild bees and butterflies. Wider effects throughout ecosystems are

also of concern and pesticides have been implicated in other declines such as farmland birds and soil organisms. The use of 26 neonicotinoids is of particular concern. These are systemic pesticides which can be applied as a seed dressing (the preferred delivery mechanism) or spray and have a high toxicity to insects.

  1. Climate Change – long term changes can deprive pollinators of food supplies at times when they need them, increase their exposure to parasites and diseases, or change habitats so that they are no longer suitable. There may be gains as well as losses but a resilient network of good pollinator habitat across the area is needed for them to be able to adapt and take advantage of changes.

What pollinators need

Pollinators need many of the things we need – food, shelter and nesting areas.

Food – Pollinators need food (nectar and pollen) throughout the season from March through until September. Many plants and trees can provide these food resources, including many so called ‘weeds’ such as dandelions and thistles.

In addition to flowers, many pollinators need other food resources to support their different life stages – for example butterfly and moth caterpillars need particular plants to feed on.

Shelter and nesting - Dense vegetation such as tussocky grassland, scrub, mature trees, and piles of wood and stone can provide essential habitat for hibernating pollinators. Many species overwinter as adults including queen bumblebees, and some butterflies and hoverflies, others as eggs, larvae or

pupae. Old burrows and dense vegetation are used by bumblebees, with sunny slopes and dry ground used by ground-nesting bees such as mining bees. 

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