The following is a summary of part of a beautifully put together booklet on ‘Actions to help Pollinators in Communities’, part of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020. To read the remainder of this information, click on the link below.
FACT 1 – Bees will not attack humans. Unless of course humans threaten them. Bees are only interested in gathering pollen and nectar to feed their families and themselves. When a bee comes close to you it’s because it thinks you are a flower. Sit still and it will fly off when it realizes you’re not.
FACT 2 – Solitary bees can be very efficient pollinators. One Red Mason Solitary Bee can do the work of between 120-160 Honeybees.
FACT 3 – In Ireland, most Solitary Bees are Mining Bees. They nest in south or east facing slopes of bare earth (soil, sand, clay, peat).
MAIN POLLINATORS IN IRELAND
Most pollination of wild plants and crops in Ireland is carried out by bees. Other insects do, however, also play a role.
In Ireland we have ninety-eight different types of bees. These are made up of twenty different types of Bumblebees, seventy- seven types of Solitary Bees and one type of Honeybee.
The Wild Pollinators are the Solitary Bees and Bumblebees. Studies show that we need both an abundance and diversity of wild pollinators and healthy Honeybees if we want our crops and wild plants to be pollinated.
These have fat, furry bodies and are very important pollinators of crops like tomatoes and strawberries. Bumblebees make their nests on the ground, hidden in long grass or other vegetation. They, like Honeybees, live in a colony with a queen, female workers and males.
Queen Bumblebees hibernate over winter and emerge in spring to begin their colony. For Bumblebees to survive it is vital that they have food from spring through to autumn. Mated new queens need to fatten up before going into hibernation. All the other Bumblebees, including the old queen, die off.
They nest in tiny burrows. These they make in cavities like hollow stems or holes in wood or in bare soil. They exist as a single male and female. In spring, they emerge from hibernation and make a nest. The female leaves a food supply of pollen beside each fertilized egg that she lays after mating. The female and male die when this job is done. The eggs hatch and the larvae eat the supply of food left by the parent before wintering in a cocoon and emerging the following spring.
Honeybees live in hives and they are looked after by beekeepers. The Beekeepers make sure the honeybees are healthy and have enough to eat, especially over the winter months. Honeybees are the only type of bees in Ireland who make honey.
In Ireland one third of the ninety-seven wild bee species are threatened with extinction. There is also evidence of a decline in Honeybee numbers. Bees are declining because of the drastic reduction in the areas where they can nest and in the amount of food the landscape provides for them. The introduction of pests and diseases that negatively impact their health is also a factor. The levels of pesticides they are subject to make it difficult for them to complete their life cycles.
WHAT WE CAN DO
We need to manage the landscape in a more sustainable way and create a joined-up network of diverse and flower-rich habitats, if we want pollinators to be available to pollinate our crops and wild plants for future generations. Farmers, gardeners, local authorities, schools even local businesses will all be required to do our bit.
OUR LOCAL COMMUNITY
We can take many actions as a community to help pollinators. We need to ensure that they have food, shelter and safety from chemicals. Some pollinator friendly actions require us to manage the land in a different way than we have become used to.
It is not about letting the landscape go wild, but managing it in a more sustainable way so that pollinators can survive and continue to provide us with their vital service.
Many of the actions that can be taken we can do in our community. Suggested actions are not costly and in some instances may lead to cost savings. Multiple actions are suggested (see the link below) so that they can be considered by the community and decide which actions would work best and at which location. In all cases, public health and safety should be the key consideration.