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
Mr Marsh is also setting up a bee nest in a playgroup at Holy
"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.