Donal Hickey: It’s in our interest to help bees

Even people with only a slight interest in the natural world seem to be talking these days about varied weather in winter and early spring, which is again highlighting the effects of climate change on animal and plant behaviour.

Donal Hickey: It’s in our interest to help bees

Even people with only a slight interest in the natural world seem to be talking these days about varied weather in winter and early spring, which is again highlighting the effects of climate change on animal and plant behaviour.

With temperatures hitting 17 degrees Centigrade in February, reaching record levels in some places, I saw bees and some butterflies going about their business as they emerged quite early from winter hibernation.

Some folk were walking around in T-shirts and shorts and comparisons were being made with the blizzard conditions of the same time last year. But all that soon changed when typically cold March weather arrived and temperatures dropped sharply to more seasonal levels.

Fact is, the weather has become warmer during winter and spring, reflected in changed wildlife activity. Grass is growing all year round, some flowers are blooming much earlier, and leaves are unfolding on trees such as horse chestnut.

Lack of food is one of the key reasons for the sharp decline in the bee population. They feed on pollen and nectar from flowers and need to draw from a range of different flowers between March and October. Spring is when bees are most at risk of starvation.

A third of our bee species is extinction-threatened, but everyone can help these pollinators which are so important for the growth of our fruits and vegetables.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre is urging farmers and people with lawns and gardens to take bee-friendly action. For instance, people are asked to let a section of their lawn remain uncut and basically go wild so as to provide long grasses for bumble bee nesting. That would also allow food like dandelions and clover to grow.

The idea is to let wild flowers grow naturally in the long grass.

Bees feed their young on pollen collected from flowers. Even plants seen as weeds, including briars, thistles, ivy and nettles, are an important food source for pollinators.

On another note, a back garden beekeeper of 20 years-plus experience, in West Cork, has been in contact. He has an acre, about 12-15 minutes driving time west of Bandon, on which he is happy to accommodate a limited number of people anxious to try their hand at beekeeping, but who might be nervous about keeping a hive or two at home.

Those interested will have to provide their own hive and stand and their own equipment, bee suit, gloves, smoker, hive tool etc. The offer is not intended for commercial operators. No charge is proposed for one or two hives but a charge is planned for more.

This is the best time of the year to get into beekeeping. If you’re interested, call Kevin on 086 3232777.

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