Teagasc Support All-Ireland Pollinator Plan
Teagasc is one of sixty-eight governmental and non-governmental organisations that have agreed a shared plan of action to tackle pollinator decline and make Ireland a place where pollinators can survive and thrive. Globally, bees are the most important pollinators because they visit flowers to collect pollen for their larvae, as well as feeding exclusively on the nectar of flowers as adults. Of 100 crops providing 90% of the world’s food, 71 are pollinated by bees.
One third of our 98 bee species in Ireland are threatened with extinction. About three-quarters of our wild plants also require insect pollinators, so without pollinators the Irish landscape would be a very different and less beautiful place. Their value to tourism and to branding our produce abroad is enormous.
The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020, makes Ireland one of the first countries in Europe with a strategy to address pollinator decline and protect pollination services. The initiative has generated huge support and has culminated in agreement to deliver 81 actions to make Ireland more pollinator friendly. The Plan identifies actions that can be taken on farmland, public land and private land.
“We need more flowers on farms and there are opportunities on every farm to make space for flowering plants and allow them to flower through good farming and environmental practices”, according to Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist.
Teagasc advise farmers to allow occasional individual whitethorn trees within routinely trimmed hedgerows to mature and flower; while retaining some escaped and relict hedgerows which flower freely. Whitethorn flowers comprise a major source of food for bees in Ireland, with bramble in summer and the late flowering ivy in autumn.
Field margins and road verges are ideal locations for flowering plants provided they do not receive pesticides and fertiliser and are allowed to flower before cutting.
Extensively farmed grasslands where plants are allowed to flower are valuable habitats for bees. Upland farms grazed at sustainable stocking rates are full of flowering shrubs such as heather.
Specific pollinator conservation actions for solitary bees have been introduced to the new agri-environment scheme, GLAS. Over 5,400 farmers have undertaken to create sand habitats for bees and a further 1,400 are installing bee boxes. Teagasc encourage farmers applying for GLAS this autumn to consider these options. Many other habitats created or managed under GLAS will also help pollinators.