Surrey insect champions needed to reverse insect decline

© Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

New report calls for ambitious pesticide reduction target

The Wildlife Trusts have publish a new report Reversing the Decline of Insects’ which shows how people, in every part of society, wherever they live, can take action to bring back insects. Everyone, everywhere, is being asked to become an insect champion.

The report cites examples of farmers, communities, councils and charities that are boosting insect populations and proving that it can be done. Egham based Belron International, vehicle glass repair and replacement company, is named in the report as a business helping to reverse insect declines.

The report comes at a critical time for insects. There is ongoing evidence for insect declines and the future of insects – and all life that depends on them – hangs in the balance as trade deals threaten to increase the use of insect-harming pesticides. Furthermore, the Agriculture Bill is progressing through Parliament presenting a unique opportunity to ensure farmers pursue insect-friendly farming methods.

Today’s publication follows the Insect declines and why they matter’ report, launched last year, which examined mounting evidence that insect populations are close to collapse and concluded that “the consequences are clear; if insect declines are not halted, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems will collapse, with profound consequences for human wellbeing.”

The Wildlife Trusts are calling on the Government to reverse the decline of insects by:

  • Setting an ambitious pesticide reduction target, as good as, if not better than, the EU’s target to reduce by 50% the overall use of – and risk from – chemical pesticides by 2030
  • No weakening of UK pesticide standards through future trade deals
  • Support for farmers to adopt insect-friendly farming practices

The Wildlife Trusts believe that reversing the decline of insects is possible if:

  • A network of nature-rich areas is created covering at least 30% of the UK, and legally binding targets are set for nature’s recovery which are monitored and enforced
  • Local councils prioritise green recovery and create more nature-rich places where insects can thrive and make cities, towns and parishes pesticide-free
  • Everyone steps up to become an insect champion

Andrew Jamieson, Partnerships and Project Development Manager, Surrey Wildlife Trust says:

"In my lifetime in Surrey records show bumblebees have declined by 42%, ground beetles by 51% and butterflies by 44%, which is dreadful because of the vital role that insects play in biodiversity and protecting our natural world. Some 41% of wildlife species in the UK have suffered strong or moderate decreases in their numbers and insects have suffered most.  Insects slowly disappearing will undermine everything that depends on them, from hedgehogs to nightingales, wildflowers to wetlands and the food crops we eat, such as, tomatoes. Almost every tomato you’ve ever eaten was probably pollinated by a bumblebee.

“We need to ensure not only our current environmental standards are met, but that government and local councils do not jeopardise the wildlife we have left. For instance, roadside mowing needs to be timed to enhance the abundance of insects, not destroy its rich biodiversity of wildflowers. 

“We want to see an ambitious pesticide reduction target and at least 30% of land being managed for nature so that insects can become abundant once more. We’re calling on everyone to take action for insects and become an insect champion.”

Lead author of the report, Professor Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex says:

“If we get it right for insects we get it right for everything else. Insects are the canaries in the coal mine – their collapse is an alarm bell that we must not ignore. Action is needed from every section of society – we all need to change this together.”

Reversing the Decline of Insects’ focuses on several examples of what can be done by everyone to halt and reverse this crisis. From the road verges of Stirling and Kent, to farms in Northern Ireland and Devon, the chalk streams of Wiltshire, and the urban greenspaces of Lambeth and Manchester, it highlights some of the many people and projects that are making a real difference for insects.

A new survey of over a thousand people who have already signed-up to take Action for Insects with The Wildlife Trusts, reveals the most popular actions people have been taking:

  • 84% have left some of their gardens to go wild
  • 83% have planted things that insects like
  • 74% have built homes for insects such as log piles or bug hotel

Surrey Insect Champions

Good business for insects

Surrey based business, Belron International, vehicle glass repair and replacement company, is doing good business for insects and leading the way as an example of a business helping local insects. The company has transformed its HQ gardens in Egham, Surrey, introducing long grass areas, wood piles, fruit trees, hibernation places, bug hotels, a wildflower bank and a pond to help insects and other local wildlife.

Surrey based ECO HQ of Toyota at Great Burgh has been awarded The Wildlife Trusts’ prestigious Biodiversity Benchmark for excellence in land management. As part of this, Toyota partnered with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to carry out landscaping works on the land around its headquarters.

Surrey Wildlife Trust Ecology Services helped Toyota adjust the management of existing habitats to optimise biodiversity. Areas of grassland have been left to grow longer. Parts of the woodland are coppiced, allowing more light to reach the woodland floor. Log piles, invertebrate hotels, stag beetle loggeries, and bird and bat boxes add to the habitats available.

Farming for biodiversity

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s home for its conservation grazing herd at Bonhurst Farm is managed to increase the diversity and abundance of wild pollinators and beneficial insects. No insecticides, slug pellets or livestock wormers are used on the farm.

The 100 hectare farm has a target of planting three kilometres of hedgerow to provide vital habitat for bees, bugs and butterflies. The 6th Woking (St Mary’s) Guides and Brownies planted 1,100 hedge plants and 200 metres of this target last year with staff and volunteers having already planted 420m.

The farm also has 50 acres sown with a diverse mix of grasses, legumes and flowering plants, which enhances biodiversity beneath the soil as well as above. There is 1.5km of newly sown six metre wildflower margins around a hay meadow which will also help to maximise biodiversity in this working landscape. There are plans this year to open up and restore 1000sqm of pond for the benefit of dragonflies and other freshwater invertebrates.

Surrey Wildlife Trust is part of a partnership of landowners across the North Downs seeking to enhance their farmland for pollinators, working together to create a nature recovery network across the landscape. Following habitat and species surveys on the farms, plans are now coming forward for sowing wildflowers on field margins and creating other habitat features for bees, bugs and butterflies.

Community-driven action

Surrey Wildlife Trust, in partnership with Thames Water, The Environment Agency and the local community in Cranleigh, is working on a project to restore the Cranleigh Waters river, to improve wildlife habitat and ​restore natural river processes.  With funding from Thames Water, the project aims to reconnect the local community with their river through monitoring ​Riverflies, ​river clean ups and restoration days. ​This project will work with volunteers to help us to understand how aquatic invertebrates are faring across the river network as well as highlight areas to target restoration and tackle pollution issues to improve invertebrate populations.

Pollinator Pathways across Surrey

Surrey Wildlife Trust has worked with Buglife to identify “B-Lines” across Surrey to create a nature recovery networks for bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinating insects. Surrey B-Lines aims to connect the county’s best remaining wildlife sites through targeted wildflower habitat creation, linking the hills to the towns and surrounding Surrey countryside.

Surrey Wildlife Trust supported the Butterfly Conservation Surrey Small Blue Stepping Stones project, which aimed to boost the Small Blue butterfly numbers across the North Downs. The two year project created butterfly habitat across 20 sites in the North Downs, including the Surrey Wildlife Trust nature reserves West Hanger, Netley Plantation, Hackhurst Down, Brockham Quarry, Betchworth Quarry and Sheepleas.

Working in partnership with other landowners across the North Downs, Surrey Wildlife Trust’s four year Hedgerow Heritage project provides a lifeline to insects in Surrey. It will leave a legacy of creating, restoring and protecting more than seventy kilometres of hedgerows in the North Downs and Surrey Hills to create a more resilient and wildlife rich natural environment for the future, creating vital habitat for hedgehogs, bees, bugs and butterflies. 

Young Insect Champions

When James McCulloch from Domewood in Surrey was just ten years old he first became interested in insects in his garden and the wildlife he discovered on holiday. Now age sixteen, he has recorded nearly 4,000 UK species, many of them insects. His passion is driven by his belief that his records are extremely valuable to science and could help nature conservation in the future.