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Bumblebees top list of churchyard insects, survey shows

30 June 2023

iStock

BUMBLEBEES topped the list of the most reported insects in churchyards and burial grounds in England, in a survey this month.

“These records are showing how valuable, when managed sensitively, many of our churchyards are for bumblebees,” said Liam Taylor, a data manager at Caring for God’s Acre, a conservation charity for UK burial grounds.

“Over the last century, bumblebees have been in decline, mainly because of large-scale changes to the way the countryside is managed. Some of the rarer bumblebee species forage only around 500 metres to one kilometre from the nest; so churchyards must be both flower-rich and diverse to provide enough flowers to sustain the colony each year.”

Volunteers from around the country took part in Churches Count on Nature: an opportunity for communities to record plants, insects, and animals found in churchyards and burial grounds, which offer unique habitats for nature, undisturbed for centuries.

‘‘I like this place: it’s got a good buzz’’

Part of Love Your Burial Ground Week (3-11 June), it was held by the Church of England in collaboration with Caring for God’s Acre, the Church in Wales, and A Rocha UK, a Christian charity working to protect the natural world. “There is a tremendous amount of diversity in the species recorded: over 150 different taxa — groups within species,” Mr Taylor said. “ So far, the records coming in show the top invertebrates spotted to be bumblebees, ladybirds, and aphids.

The director of Caring for God’s Acre, Harriet Carty, estimated that more than 150,000 volunteers helped to manage these “green oases. . . Their work includes repairing boundary walls, cutting the grass, enhancing the wildflower areas, looking after trees, and surveying the memorials and wildlife,” she said. “This has been a week-long celebration of these precious places, with the aim of encouraging people to discover more about them.”

The lead bishop for the environment, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, said: “As I read the Gospels, I’m struck by just how much nature is noticed by Jesus. We can join with him in seeing our lilies of the field, the thistles in crops, and the birds of the air.

“As Christians, we have a responsibility to care for God’s creation, and participating in Churches Count on Nature is just one way in which we can demonstrate that care.”

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