How can you help?
Parks and gardens can play an important role in bee conservation. The most important thing is to plant a range of native species to provide flowers for bees throughout the season from early March to mid September. The best plants for bees are often those with blue or yellow flowers because bees can easily see these colours (as well as ultraviolet). Unfortunately, the commonly seen annual bedding plants like Begonia and Busy Lizzie have little nectar to offer bees or other insects.
- Spring is the hardest time for bees because they are busy at work trying to build their nests but often there aren’t many plants in flower yet to provide them with the energy they need. Plants like Pussy Willow and Bluebell are excellent early-year food sources. Mahonia and Hebe are good non-native options.
- In early summer Honeysuckle and Thyme are ideal, and in late summer Heathers, Knapweed, Scabious, and non-native species like Sunflowers, Sweet pea and Lavender will provide plenty for bees to forage on.
- If you can, leave an area of your lawn uncut during summer to allow Clovers and Bird’s-foot Trefoil to flower.
- Within public parks, moving away from the lawn and lollipop approach of amenity grassland and isolated trees, towards leaving uncut verges or planting wildflower meadows will greatly benefit bees.
- Many solitary species nest in south facing banks, so leaving exposed areas of soil at the edges of lawns or creating south facing banks of sandy or clay soil will attract ground nesting species. Other species will nest in dead wood or in south facing stonewalls.
Wherever you live in Ireland, you should be able to attract at least 5 different bumblebee species to keep you company in your garden in summer.
If you have space, planting a native wildflower meadow would create an ideal forage source for bees and other insects. On farms, increasing the numbers of summer wildflowers, such as Red Clover, through the planting of hay meadows or allowing wild flowers to grow in field margins or in field corners, would play a key role in protecting and conserving our bees. Similarly, allowing wildflowers to grow along roadside verges across the country will help get our native bee species back on track to recovery.
The UK Bumblebee Conservation Trust have a tool to recommend bee friendly plants for your garden: Bee kind
They also provide Advice for farmers and other land managers
Detailed guides on how to make your garden, school, park or farm pollinator friendly will be developed as part of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020. These will be available on the Pollinator Plan website by spring 2016.