Local communities can help Ireland’s pollinators

Posted on: 10th June, 2016

Category: Home, Garden & Environment

Contributor: West Cork People

The first in a series of guidelines for helping pollinators is now available from the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. This guide provides twenty-four actions describing how local communities can help make Ireland a place where pollinators can survive and thrive.bee

Without its hardworking pollinators, the island of Ireland would be in trouble. Pollinators, especially bees, contribute at least €53 million euro to the Irish economy each year through their role in the production of crops like apples, strawberries, oil seed rape and more. Healthy pollinators are also required to produce many of the fruits and vegetables grown in gardens across the country. Finally pollinators ensure that the countryside is full of colourful wildflowers that create the beautiful and unique Irish landscape.

Unfortunately pollinators are in decline worldwide, and Ireland is no exception. Nearly one third of Ireland’s 98 bee species are threatened with extinction. In September of 2015, 68 governmental and non-governmental organisations came together to address this problem. The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020 is a shared plan of action that creates a framework for making all types of land more pollinator-friendly. The implementation of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is being coordinated by the National Biodiversity Data Centre and funded by The Heritage Council and Bord Bía.

Local communities, including Tidy Towns groups, local wildlife/environmental groups, college campuses, residents associations and more, can play a leading role in making Ireland a safe place for pollinators. To support these groups in taking action to help pollinators, the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan recently released ‘Local Communities: Actions to Help Pollinators’. This is the first of a series of guidelines describing how different sectors can implement pollinator-friendly actions. This guide, available free-to download from the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan website, lists a range of 24 low or no-cost actions that can be taken by communities to help pollinators.

Like humans, pollinators need two main things in order to survive: food and a safe place to live. Bees feed on nectar and pollen from flowers, and nest in areas like long grass, hedgerows, earth banks or stone walls. It has been estimated that in order to rear her young, a bumblebee queen needs to visit over 6000 flowers a day. Finding this number of flowers in a typical Irish garden, school or town can often be a struggle, especially in early spring. The 24 actions listed in the Local Communities guideline describe ways to bring more flowers and nesting sites into our communities, giving pollinators the resources they need to survive and thrive.

The types of actions required to help Irish pollinators are not complex or costly. Here are five simple actions listed in the Local Communities guideline that would make a big difference:

1.) Protect the pollinator habitats you already have: Are there flowering hedgerows in your community? What about areas with Bramble and Ivy? These kinds of places provide critical nesting sites and food for pollinators.

2.) Make sure there is something flowering from March-October: Many bees are active from early spring all the way through to autumn. At the beginning and end of the year, flowers can be in short supply. Try to make sure some plants in your local community are flowering year round to provide the food bees need.

3.) Let the Dandelions grow: Dandelions are often seen as unsightly weeds, but if we could grow to think of these flowers as welcomed splashes of colour in our lawns, pollinators would be much healthier. Dandelions provide an important source of pollen in the spring, when little else is in flower.

4.) Pollinator-Friendly Planting: Try to ensure the plants in your local community are good for pollinators. Growing pollinator-friendly plants from cuttings can help avoid the cost of purchasing new plants. Avoiding double flowered varieties of popular plants is important too, as they do not produce enough nectar and pollen for bees.

5.) Share what you learn with the next generation: There is now a Junior Version of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. Download it from the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan website to get the whole family involved in making the community more pollinator-friendly.

The full Local Communities guideline gives more information about these five actions, suggests additional pollinator-friendly actions, and includes lists of plants that are good for pollinators at different times of the year. Many local communities across the country are already doing their part; this year Tidy Towns is sponsoring a Pollinator Award for the community that makes the biggest difference for pollinators.

For more information on what you can do to make your community a good place for pollinators, download the guidelines from the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan website:

www.biodiversityireland.ie/

pollinator-plan. Everyone has a role to play. Get involved to make sure your community is a place where pollinators can flourish.

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