The 'gentle' mason bees living in our pavements - and efforts being considered to protect their habitats
New measures to protect bees could be considered during road repairs.
Mason bees perform vital roles in the natural world, but concerns have been raised over threats to their habitat when workmen are called to address problems in footpaths.
But engineers at Durham County Council have now promised to consider eco friendly techniques in the future.
Liberal Democrat opposition councillor Liz Brown said: “I’m always very disappointed when I find flagstones have been tarmacked over, because they’re a habitat for the mason bee.
“I don’t know if you’ve walked along and seen little volcanoes between flagstones but those are masonry bees, and obviously when you get rid of the gaps between flagstones you get rid of the habitat for the mason bee.
“I just thought that ought to be taken into consideration, it’s one of my crusades.”
Cllr Brown was speaking at a meeting of the county council’s Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.
The county’s footpaths are inspected regularly for signs of wear and tear, but depending on their usual level of use this can happen every two weeks for busy town and city centre routes, or just once a year for the quietest access points.
The county’s 16 highway inspectors carry out more than 11,000 assessments every year, with repairs and maintenance completed within 72 hours for the most serious damage, or within up to three months for more minor defects.
Since 2017, the council has identified about 67,000 footpath defects, costing more than £3.6 million to fix.
Mason bees are considered ‘gentle’ and ‘non-aggressive’ and unlikely to sting.
They are also believed to be more effective pollinators than honey or bumble bees.
Paul Watson, the county council’s road safety manager, said: “Certainly, it’s an opportunity to speak with the ecology team to look up the habitats of the masonry bee.
“If there’s an alternative habitat that we can provide at very low cost that then allows the masonry bee to flourish, then, if our ecologists can identify that, that would be a good trade off between flag footpath and bitmac.”