It’s not all about honeybees

So many have said to me that they would like to help the bees and some even want to take up beekeeping which, if you really think before you leap, is a bit daunting and expensive. It’s not all about honeybees you know. In fact, too may beehives in an area can dominate the eco system and deny the diverse pollinator population equal rights. Not that I’ve seen that in Ireland, we are still not approaching the honeybee saturation point of warmer countries with their many large-scale commercial beekeepers.

See also Countries Tab on the International Centre for young beekeepers website http://icyb.cz/

I consider honeybees as a barometer of the state of the nation’s pollinator health. If the honeybees are having problems, then other pollinators are too. It’s disputed if honeybees are under threat as they have commercial value and are farmed. I think they are though, as our poor honeybees have an onslaught of problems from pesticides and various diseases which have been introduced into Ireland. There are no facemasks for little bees and they are very vulnerable to imported diseases and pests.  The insidious Varroa mite being one such critter introduced in Ireland in 1991 http://galwaybeekeepers.com/varroa/ .  Life for bees and beekeepers hasn’t been the same since and we can expect the loss of 1/3 of our colonies each winter no matter how diligent we are. Gone too are the abundance of colonies of wild honeybees. However, it might not surprise you that Australia is only one of a few countries that have diligently avoided the importation of the Varroa mite.

On this glorious sunny summers day I wanted to be cheerful. My bees are doing very well so far this year and I again would like to thank all of you who are growing pollinator friendly flowers and letting swaths of wild native flowers grow. The verges and gardens are magnificent this year.  Honeybees collect pollen and nectar from flowers and prefer open-leaf flowers, there’s a nice list and photos here: https://birdwatchinghq.com/flowers-for-bees/ .  Fruit trees, bushes and plants are a win-win for bees and grower as you’ll harvest more and better quality fruit . 

I see mostly bumble bees on my Lavender and Manuka plants but all pollinators are ok by me. A simple way free way to encourage honeybees or any of the 20 bumble bee species and 77 solitary bee species (Irish stats) is to let a patch of your garden or farm go wild. Do nothing.  You don’t even have to plant the so called wild-flower “bombs”, many of which have flowers that may not be native to your area.  Nature will take over if you let her.  You could also create a small earth bank to encourage solitary bees to nest there and of course, avoid using pesticides if you can at all. If you think your neighbours might object to your apparently messy garden, you could maintain a neatly cut swath of grass around the wild patch to show you do care, and to really impress, put a sign in the middle of the wild patch, e.g., “Pollinator Friendly Garden”, Pollinator Habitat”  “Managed for pollinators”.  Creating your own DIY timber sign will add to the authenticity, the eco friendless and sustainability of it all. 😊

More information on the Biodiversity Ireland website https://www.biodiversityireland.ie/  and further information https://pollinators.ie/

National Biodiversity Data Centre on Irelands bees PDF

Times article how to make your garden a haven for bees

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