"Bee kind" farming
Today is #WorldBeeDay and Teagasc encourages farmers to adopt "Bee kind" farming, to look at ways of improving habitats and enhance biodiversity to support wild bees on Irish farmland. In Ireland there are 77 solitary bee species, 21 bumble bee species and 1 honey bee species.
Did you know that one third of our bee species are under threat of extinction?
What can you do?
Plant a hedge. Hedges provide food and nest sites for bees. Hedges in the Irish countryside are extremely valuable for bees providing food and nest sites, especially in agricultural landscapes. The All Ireland Pollinator Plan aims to try to create an Ireland where pollinators can survive and thrive.
The All Ireland Pollinator Plan is an initiative bringing farmers, local authorities, schools, gardeners, and businesses together to try to create an Ireland where bees can survive and thrive. Teagasc supports the All Ireland Pollinator Plan https://pollinators.ie/media/world-bee-day-2021/
Left to Right: Solitary Bee – Andrena haemmorhoa (Photo: Stephanie Maher); Bumblebee – Bombus Muscuorum (Photo: Stephanie Maher); and Honeybee (Photo: Elizabeth Cunningham)
A lot of our solitary species become active early in the year – March- April. At that time there are lots of lovely species flowering in hedges, like whitethorn. There are some solitary bee species that rely on early flowering species. A good example in Ireland is Andrena clarkella, which is a solitary mining bee. It relies on willow species – that’s the only plant it uses for food. So it’s really important it has access to flowering willow when active at that time of year.
There are two things that bees need to live and to thrive – food and nest sites. They must have somewhere to create a home. Hedges can provide nest sites for lots of bees. Most of the bees in Ireland nest in the ground. When a hedge occurs over a bank these can offer really great opportunities for these bees to nest, particularly if the bank is south facing getting lots of sun and is well draining. Of course there’s the added benefit of there being lots of nice food nearby occurring in the hedges where they feed.
We have about 21 species of bumble bee in Ireland and hedges are a great resource for them. The great thing about hedges is that they can flower all the way through from February to September October – into November you can even have ivy flowering in hedges. Lots of our bumblebee species require food all the way through the year and hedges are a really great food resource. Hedges also offer bumbebees somewhere to nest. Bumblebee nests are regularly found at the base of hedges in hollows where they are protected and safe from predators and close to food resources. Bumblebees often use hedges in the landscape as bee motorways to connect areas of really good food. Hedges help guide bees to find their way through the landscape.
Examples of our most common bumblebee species are the white tailed bumblebee and the buff tailed bumblebee – you’ll always see them covering hedges especially where there’s lots of bramble because they really love bramble flowers.
White tailed bumblebee Bombus lucorum (Photo: Tom Cuffe) and the bramble flower it loves
This article is an excerpt of an article by Catherine Keena, Countryside Management Specialist,Teagasc and Stephanie Maher, Biodiveristy Researcher newly apointed to Teagasc, which you can read in full here: How bees use hedges
Find out more about bees here
Here are some links to nice articles on this topic previously published on Teagasc Daily
Find more information on World Bee Day 2021 here https://pollinators.ie/media/world-bee-day-2021/