It’s World Bee Day today, and we’re buzzing (just had to get that one in early), so we thought it apt to explore in more depth the origins of the infamous Manchester bee. Also, what better way to shout about some fantastic biodiverse spaces across the city that cultivate our stripey friends, and similar wildlife you may not expect!
During the industrial revolution, Manchester was one of the key cities leading the way to achieve meaningful change. The worker bee was first used as an icon to represent Mancs around this time, due to the insects’ hard-working nature, and the city being a ‘hive of activity’. Each bee, in its own right, is strong and powerful; but, in a colony, they’re unstoppable. Following this, the worker bee took its rightful place on the Manchester coat of arms in 1842.
In addition to this, our city has a history of significant beekeeping – most recently on the roof of The Printworks. In 2015, there were 32,000 resident bees working away on the rooftop producing an impressive 213 jars of honey throughout the year. There are still hives up there, and also on top of the Cathedral, Manchester Art Gallery and Manchester Central Conference Centre.
In 2017, the bee also began symbolising unity and love, after the Manchester Arena bombing. People across the world had Manchester’s famous bees tattooed on them to show their support and solidarity during this time. You can also spot the bee widely across the city; from the floor of Manchester Town Hall to the street art around the Northern Quarter, and on the clock faces of the Palace Hotel.
In recent years, Manchester has dedicated more and more funding to look after the city’s wildlife, including the worker bee, and began the My Wild City partnership, between the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, and the region’s local councils. Funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, this partnership developed to deliver an ambitious 10-year plan, to improve biodiversity in the city and protect the wildlife in Manchester.
If you’re interested, it’s deffo worth checking out how you can do your part to keep Manchester’s wildlife safe and happy! There are loads of easy and free ideas that will ensure our city encourages diversity in its nature as well as people.
So, if you’re looking for some ideas where you can be at one with nature (not literally!) within the city, then here’s a few ways we recommend.
Just a mile from the city centre is a 3-hectare nature reserve, which has been named a Grade A Site of Biological Importance. It has a multitude of habitats, which many rare plants and animal species have made home, including the southern marsh orchid, kestrels, brown hares, and plenty of butterflies.
Reddish Vale Country Park
At one point, this was the site of a calico printing works. Now a park, this area thrives on biodiversity. You shouldn’t struggle to find this one; just look for the imposing viaduct, a reminder of the area’s industrial past, which now sits over 2 large mill ponds. In addition, there are wetlands and woodlands which are home to waterfowl, woodland birds, mammals and insects. It’s also an important breeding site for sand martins, roe deer and kingfishers.
Highfield Country Park
This substantial country park is nestled in inner-city suburb Levenshulme and has not long undergone a significant rejuvenation project. A location popular with dog walkers, there are winding paths, hidden ponds and hedges bulging with blackberries (at the right time of year). Manchester’s bees are regularly seen, as are some really special birds and unique tree species.
Make sure you send us any photos of your wildlife sightings in and around Manchester, we’d love to see them. Or alternatively, drop us a line and tell us where you’ve spotted the bee emblem, they really are everywhere!