Scottish farmers could be paid to abandon fields for bumblebees


SCOTTISH farmers could be paid to abandon parts of their land to help aid the recovery of Scotland’s bumblebees.

Environment minister, Paul Wheelhouse, last week hinted that landowners could receive grants not to farm their fields, allowing them to become wild grassland.

This forms a plan to aid the recovery of Scotland’s bumblebee population.

Several species of the country’s bumblebees have suffered severe declines in the

ir populations in recent years.

It is thought this is largely due to the loss of their wild habitat due to rigorous farming.

Allowing fields to become wild grassland would aid in boosting the bee population, as it would mean a comeback of colourful plants such as wild pansies and corn marigolds.

A report on Scotland’s farmland recently warned that these wild plants were being wiped out because of intensive farming.

The report, published by conservation group Plantlife, stated that the number of wild cornflowers in the country has dropped by 99% in the past 40 years.

Between 1998 and 2007, are of enclosed grassland in Scotland increased by 9%, while the richness of its plant species fell by 8%.

The four species to have suffered severe declines in population are the bilberry, moss carder, redshanked carder and the great yellow bumblebee.

These represent a third of Scotland’s bumblebee population.

In a written statement to David Stewart, the Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Mr Wheelhouse said: “Such objectives are heavily dependent on mechanisms to support large-scale, sympathetic management of habitat, including those that might be available under the Scotland rural development programme.”

A spokesman for NFU Scotland said: “Farmers accept that we need to do our part to protect biodiversity, not just bees but also plant species.

“Four years ago, we supported the inclusion of a bee-friendly farming option within the rural development plan. It proposed support for wild flower planting on field margins. Unfortunately, that NFU’s proposal wasn’t taken up but the current consultation gives all parties an option to refresh their thinking on what support might be needed.”

Dr Maggie Keegan, head of policy and planning for the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “We know what the causes of bumblebee decline are — habitat loss, fragmentation, lack of wild flowers, shrubs and native trees across our landscapes and the use of pesticides such as neonicotinoids which are known to affect bumblebee queen production success.

“We hope this bee action plan gets to grips with the problems and paves the way for targeted action on the ground including supporting beefriendly agri-environment schemes and moving towards targeted rather than prophylactic pest management.”

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: “We are currently consulting on initial proposals for the next Scotland rural development programme. The creation and maintenance of habitats beneficial to biodiversity remains a key priority for this government, as we have set out in the consultation document.”