Builders have transplanted hundreds of rare orchids to safety in Cork in what's believed to have been one of the largest plant transplant operations of its kind in the country.
The relocation of the striking specimens of bee orchid was performed by developers BAM as part of the enabling infrastructure work it is doing for Cork County Council on a large site earmarked for housing at Water-Rock near Midleton in East Cork — one of the first in the country to adopt a Pollinator Plan.
The remarkable bee orchid, which mimics the patterning and scent of a female bee, first appears in Irish records in 1793 but in the two centuries since, there are just 479 records of it in the landscape — some records refer to a solitary flower, others to a few dozen flowers at a time.
But in June 2020, environmentalists discovered at least 363 individual bee orchids on the verges of a road near the Water-Rock site.
The discovery came about a year after the town adopted a managed scheme to support biodiversity under the All Ireland Pollinator Plan.
Experts described as spectacular the recording of so many individual bee orchids in an urban setting — a species usually found in botanical hotspots such as the Burren in Clare and Bull Island in Dublin — and said it is proof that pollinator plans work.
But Midleton's bee orchids were at risk from some of the infrastructural works and a decision was made to transplant them to a safe location along the Midleton to Youghal greenway.
Mayor of the County of Cork, Danny Collins said, the operation is “a clear demonstration” of the council's commitment to biodiversity.
“As members of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, Cork County Council wants to identify and protect existing areas that are good for bees and insects as well as planting pollinator-friendly beds, trees and bulbs,” he said.
“The plans also focus on reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides and altering the frequency of grass cutting to allow more native plants to flower. Midleton is a fantastic example of how the principles of the pollinator plan can lead to really positive results.”
Council chief executive, Tim Lucey, said the transplant shows how it is possible to deliver large scale projects while adhering to pollinator-friendly practices.
“It is wonderful to see how a project of this scale can be delivered in conjunction with a sustainable and considerate biodiversity approach and, thanks to the support of BAM, every effort is being made to ensure that we help reverse the decline of our pollinator species," he said.
BAM was appointed last year to deliver the Water-Rock infrastructure works which include the construction of about 1.2km of a single carriageway link road and around 300m of adjoining single carriageway roads.
The roads will include a surface water drainage and attenuation system, upgrading of the existing Cork to Midleton, and Midleton Northern Relief Road junction, services, public lighting, and landscaping.