Pollinators in Ireland
Bees are the most important pollinating insect because they visit flowers to collect food for their larvae, as well as feeding on floral resources as adults. In Ireland crops such as apples, clover, strawberries and oilseed rape all benefit from pollination and a recent study from the Department of the Environment valued this ‘ecosystem service’ that bees provide at €85m a year to the economy.
2013: Worldwide study shows the decline of wild bees and other pollinators may be an even more alarming threat to crop yields than the loss of honeybees, revealing the irreplaceable contribution of wild insects to global food production.
In Ireland there are 101 species of bee, including the familiar honeybee (One species) and 20 bumblebee species. The remaining species are solitary, meaning they do not form colonies.
Amongst the most well-known services performed by a healthy biodiversity is pollination. Bees are the keystone pollinator species making more flower visits than any other insect. There is a need however for urgent action as our wild bees are facing an unprecedented crisis in declining populations due to agricultural intensification, habitat degradation, disease and parasite spread, and climate change. Pollinators play a crucial role in our farms, gardens and countryside – we cannot afford to take them for granted.
Gardening for Bees
Gardens are extremely important for bees, and vice versa. Bees need flowers for sustenance, and flowers need bees for pollination. But it’s important the flowers you grow provide the food bees need. So Let’s Bee Friendly by turning part of your garden into a bumblebee haven!
- As a rule of thumb your garden should provide bee-friendly flowers, open cup shaped flowers are the bees’ favorites such as foxgloves, that are rich in pollen and nectar which bees can easily access from spring until late summer. This will ensure that there is a good supply of pollen at all of the crucial times.
- Flowers clustered into clumps of one species will attract more pollinators than individual plants scattered through the habitat patch.
- Plants like Pussy Willow and Bluebell are excellent early-year food sources. Mahonia and Hebe are good non-native options
- In early summer Honeysuckle and Thyme are ideal, and in late summer Heathers, Knapweed, Scabious, and non-native species like Sunflowers, Sweet pea and Lavender will provide plenty for bees to forage on.
- If you can, leave an area of your lawn uncut during summer to allow Clovers and Bird’s-foot Trefoil to flower. Leaving uncut verges or planting wildflower meadows will greatly benefit bees.
- Many solitary species nest in south facing banks, so leaving exposed areas of soil at the edges of lawns or creating south facing banks of sandy or clay soil will attract ground nesting species. Other species will nest in dead wood or in south facing stonewalls