Getting a Buzz into Birmingham

Thursday 10th November 2016

A personal perspective from Nick Packham is the Urban Buzz officer for Birmingham, who has been with the project since the start in October 2015. Nick is tasked with creating 20 hectares of pollinator habitat across the city, engaging local partners and the wider community to create food and nesting opportunities for bees, butterflies, beetles and many more pollinators.  Urban Buzz is a national project active across 8 cities in the UK.


Young volunteers helping to build a star wars themed bug hotel


We are now a year into the project and what a year it has been, we have created 64 Buzzing hotspots all over the city working with some fascinating people making a real difference to the landscape bringing lots of colour right to the door steps of different communities, all of which is made possible by generous funding opportunities such as the Aviva Community Fund . Funding has allowed me to bring in over 100 kilos of wildflower seed, including 25 different species, to plant in parks and other open space with help from local people.


Me seed sowing at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital


For me the project has brought many great highlights. Right at the top of the list are seeing lots of bees, hoverflies and butterflies enjoying the new meadow hotspots, enjoying the swathes of colour and all of the buzzing activity with various community groups themselves eager to see insects enjoying the fruits of their labour. Many of the sites in North Birmingham were grassy deserts with little or no plant life, and now they are teaming with life.


Urban Buzz hotspot rife with flowers on the entrance to city centre


The project has enabled me to run pollinator walks and workshops with communities, and be able to share my passion for bees and other insects. Watching some of my fascination rub off onto others, and then seeing people active in the community helping to safeguard pollinators is a really great buzz. A great example of this has been schools and scout groups in Erdington constructing bug hotels and then going on to be local bee ambassadors, looking after pollinator patches in their area.


Tractor harrowing Manor Farm Park ready for some seed sowing


We have recorded a large number of leafcutter bees (megachile) in Birmingham’s northern buzzing projects which is exciting. Although we see them in other parts of the city, indeed much of the UK, we are seeing large numbers here mainly on these new Urban Buzz meadow patches.  This indicates the work is having an immediate impact, and there is real hope that the sites will go on to be important strong holds for these species of bee.


A leaf cutter bee on corn marigold, taken in Erdington Birmingham


To date the project has completed over 60 Buzzing hotspots, created with the help of over 450 volunteers with over 700 volunteer hours recorded. Help local communities and myself in Birmingham do more for pollinators and vote for Urban Buzz in the ‘Aviva Community Fund’ to give us a chance to win £25k for the project.


An Urban Buzz Birmingham Wildflower meadow