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Churchyards are safer places to buzz

30 May 2014

by a staff reporter


Supporting masons: the Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt Revd Mark Rylands, inspects a bee nest set up at the playgroup at Holy Trinity, in Shrewsbury

Supporting masons: the Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt Revd Mark Rylands, inspects a bee nest set up at the playgroup at Holy Trini...

CHURCHES are stepping in to try to save a declining bee species by offering their graveyards as breeding grounds.

In the diocese of Lichfield, a project, Praise Bee, has been set up to halt the decline of the mason bee, one of the 250 different kinds of solitary bee in the UK, which do not make honey but are vital for pollination.

"Mason bees are responsible for nearly half the pollination in the wild," Viv Marsh, who is behind the Praise Bee project, said. "Yet, while we have all heard of the plight of the honey bee, people aren't aware of the rapid decline of the mason bee.

"The dramatic decline in solitary bees since the Second World War, when wild pastures were ploughed up on the orders of the War Office, has gone under the radar. We need to highlight the importance of these bees."

Mr Marsh went on: "I'm a vicar's grandson, and I thought that the Church could be a means of getting these bees out in the communities. Where there are churches, there are homes and gardens. And churchyards are free of insecticides.

"I know that most vicars and churchwardens care about nature and the environment as part of their faith."

The mason bee is so called because of its use of mud to make compartments in its nests, as a stonemason does when building a house. The bees use hollow wood or reeds to nest in, though they can also use snail shells.

Two churches in Shrewsbury, St George's and St Peter's, last year bred 500 bees. Mr Marsh hopes that the project will be rolledout across the diocese and the rest of the UK. The Roman Catholic Church is also supportive of the project, as is the Ministry of Defence, which does not use insecticides on its land.

Mr Marsh is also setting up a bee nest in a playgroup at Holy Trinity, Shrewsbury.

"Mason bees are not aggressive, and having a nest will show children they can live alongside bees and don't need to be scared of them," Mr Marsh said.

A research study involving Harper Adams University and the University of Bristol is to monitor the project to see whether it can act as a "blueprint" for a way to increase bee populations across the UK. 

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