Gardeners encourged to grow wildflowers as bee numbers fall

A bee feeding on the lavender in Scarva Park, Co Down
A bee feeding on the lavender in Scarva Park, Co Down

A significant drop in the number of bees across the island of Ireland has led to the development of a ‘pollinator’ plan to halt the decline.

Where wildflowers were once abundant along roadsides, in field margins, and in public parks and gardens, many areas have now been cleared to create a more tidy appearance – greatly reducing the amount of suitable nesting areas and feeding opportunities.

The loss of habitat has resulted in one third of our 98 bee species being threatened with extinction.

A number of government and non-government organisations have come together in an attempt to create ‘pollinator highways’ along transport routes, and to encourage householders to view their gardens as potential ‘pit stops’ for foraging bees.

Welcoming the publication of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020, environment minister Mark H Durkan said he was worried about the dramatic decline in local bee numbers.

“One third of our bee population threatened with extinction is a startling statistic. It is important therefore that my department has been involved in developing this plan.

“We very much support this call to action to make Ireland pollinator friendly.

“In coming together to protect pollinators, we will also protect the livelihood of farmers and growers who rely on their free pollinator service, as well as improving the general health of our environment.

“This voluntary call for action has received overwhelming support and signifies the importance of the plan,” he said.

This is first European cross-border pollinator plan of its kind.

Mr Durkan added: “A key element in the plan is the need to raise awareness about how to protect pollinators. Eco-Schools, which we fund, is raising awareness among our young people. Everyone can play a role though, be it farmers, gardeners, businesses, and government.”

• This year’s honey harvest is set to be dramatically down on last year after the poor summer weather created difficult conditions for bees.

The combination of wet and windy weather and cool temperatures at key times of nectar production meant bees collected significantly less to deposit into honeycomb cells, according to farmers.

Bee farmer Crispin Reeves, from Haughton Honey based in Cheshire, said the harvest was likely to be a third of last year’s amount.

Mr Reeves said: “The honey crop can fluctuate quite widely from one year to the next and, in the main, it’s all down to the weather.

“After talking to bee farmers across the country, it looks likely that the honey harvest generally could be around a third of last year’s crop.