VOLUNTEERS in Glasgow have made it their mission to bring bees and other precious bugs back to the city’s green spaces - amid a “shocking” decline in Britain’s insect populations.

A new survey, which monitored the number of “splats” on car registration plates, revealed this month that the number of flying insects in the UK dropped by 60% since 2004.

Twenty-eight per cent fewer insects have been recorded in Scotland and experts say this widespread drop would lead to catastrophic effects on nature’s ecosystems.

Yorkhill Green Spaces lovingly looks after three parks in the West End neighbourhood, with the aim to provide safe, pleasant spaces for the community, while improving biodiversity in the area.

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Since 2017, they have recorded thousands of species of plants, mammals, birds, and, of course, insects.

Dozens of species of bees, beetles, butterflies, centipedes, and even dragonflies populate their green spaces and earned them the NatureScot It’s Your Neighbourhood Pollinator Friendly Award.

Volunteer Scott Shanks, who works as a conservation officer at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), has been offering his expertise in the mission to bring wildlife back to these spaces.

“It’s quite shocking, isn’t it, a 60% decline over less than 20 years,” he said.

“Repopulating our green spaces with insects and wildlife has been our main focus for the past few years."

Glasgow Times: Scott Shanks, 47, is a conservation officer at RSPB. He has lived in Yorkhill for 20 years and joined the Yorkhill Green Spaces to help improve biodiversity in the area.Scott Shanks, 47, is a conservation officer at RSPB. He has lived in Yorkhill for 20 years and joined the Yorkhill Green Spaces to help improve biodiversity in the area.

Why are insects so important?

“Insects make up the biggest percentage of life on the planet," explained Scott.

"They are important for things like growing food.

"But having pollinators and other insects in the cities doesn’t just benefit us in the garden.

"We also get much more wildlife coming in, like birds and even hedgehogs, who eat them.”

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According to Buglife, who ran the survey, insects and other invertebrates are vital for ecosystems as they are responsible for pollination, decomposing and recycling matter, and controlling pests.

Glasgow Times: A bee from the Overnewton Park in Yorkhill.A bee from the Overnewton Park in Yorkhill.

With the changes brought by industrial farming and the use of pesticides and monocultures, the countryside is not always a hospitable environments for insects, so urban gardens are more important than ever, said Scott.

“They are one of the best solutions to help improve pollinator numbers and biodiversity,” he added.

“A comparative part could be parks but, particularly in the last 10 years or so, they've been so intensively managed and kept so immaculate that there wasn't very much space for wildlife.”

Glasgow Times: A beetle from Overnewton Park, Yorkhill.A beetle from Overnewton Park, Yorkhill.

Yorkhill green spaces are buzzing with activity

The group looks after Yorkhill Park, Overtown Park and Cherry Park.

With attentive landscaping a careful selection of plants and flowers, and installation of "bee hotels", volunteers create the perfect habitats for our flying and crawling friends.

“In Overnewton Park, we have a range of grasses, flowers, herbs and herbaceous perennials with lovely scents, to encourage insects and wildlife," said Scott.

“Last June, we also got permission from the council to use the slopes of Yorkhill Park to create a wildflower meadow, which is so important for pollinators.”

Glasgow Times: The Overnewton Park wildflowers.The Overnewton Park wildflowers.

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About 10 years ago, explained Scott, the grass there was cut every week, preventing any kind of growth.

Then, it was abandoned and the grass built up, squeezing out any wildflower species, and, in turn, pollinators.

“The idea is to reduce the dominance of the grass,” continued Scott.

“So last year we got volunteers to cut and rake the grass, which we took to the undergrowth for habitat piles.

“Then we had wildflower planting, so hopefully this year we will have a fantastic array of wildflowers.”

Glasgow Times: A Poplar Hawkmoth.A Poplar Hawkmoth.

What next?

The group has several projects in the pipelines to continue improving the local green spaces to welcome bugs and other animals.

Cherry Park has been signposted for a rain garden, which, with layers or gravel, compost, and plants, will help prevent flooding, while Yorkhill Park is set to receive a little pond.

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Next month, 87 pupils from the Glasgow Gaelic School will also join volunteers to help plant thousands of wildflowers donated by the council.

For Scott, who has lived in Yorkhill for 20 years, the recent sighting of a hedgehog is evidence that the charity’s work is successfully attracting wildlife.

Glasgow Times: A Davies Colletes solitary bee on Yarrow flower.A Davies Colletes solitary bee on Yarrow flower.

“Ever since moving in, I've not actually seen a hedgehog in Yorkhill,” he said.

“Having a record of a hedgehog coming back into this area is wonderful and I think that says a lot about the work with wildflowers and all the biodiversity stuff that's been done."

How do I attract insects to my garden or balcony?

“Try and provide some flowers from early spring all the way through to autumn," said Scott.

“A whole range of flowers will be great but go for the nice simple ones like daisies and native wildflowers that don't have too many complex kind of puffballs or double heads because they tend to have less nectar and pollen.

“If you can fit a little tree, like a little Kilmarnock Willow, that produces tonnes of pollen for bees early in the spring. 

“That's such a good one and can fit into a small space, I've got one on my balcony as well."

Glasgow Times: Overnewton Park, Yorkhill.Overnewton Park, Yorkhill.

Providing water is also really important, according to Scott: "Even just like a little a bird bath can be great for all sorts of animals."

And forget a neat and orderly garden.

“Try not to be too tidy in the winter," added Scott.

"When it comes to fallen leaves, don't be too quick to take them all up and burn them or chuck them away, try and keep them in a little compost heap or leaf pile, it’s great for hibernating things and hopefully a little hedgehog can go in there as well."

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Getting some bulbs going at the beginning of autumn is a simple and effective way to get your green space humming with life.

Glasgow Times: An Overnewton Park butterfly.An Overnewton Park butterfly.

“Crocuses and grape hyacinths are really good for bees, things like daffodils and tulips tend not to be very good for pollinators," said Scott.

“And of course, not using pesticides is key. If you want to encourage wildlife into the garden, particularly insects, get rid of them. 

“Quite often the marketing for these products can be misleading as they have pictures of bees and bumblebees and butterflies on them

“But when we kill the little green fly and aphids using pesticides, ladybirds come along to eat them and that goes into the nectar and pollen and gets into the bees and butterflies that are killed. 

“That's a real disaster, so if you can tolerate the green fly for a week or so until the ladybirds arrive, that's a good way to do.”