A project designed to provide essential habitats for bees throughout bustling city centres is being rolled out across Europe and the UK.
Pioneered in the Netherlands, ‘Buzz Stops’ are bus shelter roofs planted with pollinator-friendly plants such as wild strawberries and poppies.
Clear Channel UK – who manage 30,000 British bus shelters on behalf of local authorities – aims to create 1,000 of the floral-topped structures by the end of the year, to attract both bee and butterfly species and help reverse their declining numbers.
In recent years, bee populations have plummeted globally due primarily to habitat loss and climate change. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists 16 species as vulnerable, 18 as endangered and 9 as critically endangered globally.
There are almost 20,000 different species of bees, many of which provide essential services to humans and ecosystems, including pollinating the food we need to survive and many of the trees and flowers that provide habitats for other wildlife.
Earlier this year a study in the UK that looked at the number of dead insects on car registration plates found that the number of flying bugs in Britain had declined by almost 60 per cent since 2004.
It is hoped however that brining innovative solutions such as the Buzz Stop to the UK can help reverse the decline with strong supporting evidence from the Netherlands. Dutch cities have managed to stabilise urban bee populations in recent years with bee hotels and bee stops credited as part of the solution.
Creative Bee Solutions
In the UK, the rollout has already begun. Currently Leicester has 30 bee bus stops, while Derby has 18, and there are others in Southampton, Newcastle, Sunderland, Derby, Oxford, Cardiff and Glasgow. Brighton and Hove City Council installed one last year after a petition was signed by almost 50,000 people.
Louise Stubbings, creative director of Clear Channel, said: ‘We want to do it in as many cities in the UK as possible. The average bus shelter has a shelf life of at least 20 years. Ones with living roofs have to be specially designed because the soil is so heavy, especially when it is full of water, and Clear Channel is installing them only where shelters need replacing.’
Her firm is also building the shelters in France and Belgium later this year, and has been contacted by transport authorities in Canada and Australia.
Clear Channel is working with local Wildlife Trusts to ensure native flowers are utilised. Species such as thyme, selfheal and wild marjoram have been chosen to attract a range of pollinators including common carder bees, buff-tailed bumblebees, peacock butterflies, small tortoiseshell butterflies and chequered hoverflies.
Jo Smith, CEO of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, who has been working with Derby City Council said the project brings the natural world into urban environments.
‘Bus stops are a great way of being very present in the city. Everyone sees them, even if they’re not taking the bus, but walking or driving past. It’s a visible representation of the small changes we want communities, individuals and organisations to take in order to create more space for nature,’ she said.
‘It’s right in the city centre where you haven’t got much green space. We’ve had lots of people asking us if they could do it on top of their garage, or on bus stops in other cities.’
Bee Saving Rollouts
The city of Utrecht in the Netherlands was the first to establish a bee and butterfly bus stop, and now has more than 300.
The city council has created a ‘no roofs unused’ policy, and every public building top surface will now be greened with plants and mosses or have solar panels installed.
The UK Wildlife Trusts’ Director of Development, Thirzah McSherry, said: ‘We’re living through a nature and climate crisis and we need to use every tool we’ve got to tackle it – which means thinking creatively.
‘These green-roofed bus stops do just that by taking advantage of urban opportunities to help increase the amount of space for nature throughout our towns and cities, contributing to a wider nature recovery network and hopefully getting people to stop and think about the steps we can all take too to bring nature back.’
Cllr Adam Clarke, Deputy City Mayor of Leicester, added that the project is also encouraging greener ways to travel.
‘As well as promoting biodiversity and being populated by bees, they will help us get the bus shelters populated with more bus users too,’ he said.