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Irish Wildflowers

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Five Ways to Help Bees Now

March 30, 2014

5 ways to help bees now

We hear so much about the desperate plight of the bees but is the message getting through?

poppiesandbees.jpg

Scientists are still working to determine what exactly is causing their global demise, but as a result of the Varroa mite, *there are no wild honeybees left in Ireland.

As we begin to sow seeds, tidy our gardens and think about shrubs and summer blooms, it’s important to remember bees need our help if they are to survive.

I came across this alarming yet hopeful TED talk by Marla Spivak recently where she eloquently speaks about the plight of the disappearing bees which is worth listening to. At the end she highlights a couple of things that each and every one of us can do to help the bees and why it’s important that we do them now. I’ve added a few more…

Five things we can do right now to help the bees that will make a difference

1. Don’t contaminate the flowers that are growing. Stop spraying pesticides and herbicides on flowers that the bees feed on and ingest – that includes the “weeds” such as dandelion that are a veritable spring feast for bees as they emerge. Always err on the side of caution – if you’re still using chemicals and are not sure if they’re harmful to bees or not, DON’T USE THEMThe RHS carry a lot of information about bees on their website, including a list of withdrawn chemicals that can be referred to.

Cornflowers2. Plant more bee friendly flowers.

If you’ve a large area to plant, one of the wildflower mixes from Sandro Cafolla, Design by Nature might be for you. Not only will the birds, bees and butterflies love you for it, wildflowers are low maintenance (they generally only need one cut per year) and look stunning when in flower too.

A spring bee feeding on a Mahonia flowerOnce again, the RHS have a very detailed list of plants for pollinators on their website here, which will give you ideas for bee attracting climbers, trees, bulbs and corms, as well as annual, biennial or perennial flowers.

You could also plant herbs or vegetables that bees will enjoy feeding upon such as asparagus, broad beans, courgettes and other members of the squash family, hyssop, marjoram, mint, rosemary, runner beans, sage, thyme and allow some of them to flower too such as brassicas.

bee collecting pollen on a broad (fava) bean3. Take direct action.

Greenpeace are running a campaign asking people to support ecological farming, ban bee harming pesticides and adopt action plans that will help to monitor the situation. If you’d like to sign the petition and/or donate to the cause, click the link here.

4. Create Bee-Friendly Zones

Bees like nooks and crannies to nest, feed and hang out in. Learn how to garden without chemicals, plant bee friendly plants, make bee nest boxes or hotels and encourage your friends, neighbours, schools, creches, and clubs to do the same in Bee-Friendly Zones.

Encourage councils and tidy town groups to plant bee friendly flowers among hedgerows and verges and remind farmers to leave strips of wild flower areas on the edges of their fields and resist spraying them with herbicides and pesticides, which will provide the bees with unpolluted food help to ensure their survival.

If you’re looking for ideas on habitats, here’s a Pinterest board full of bird, bee and pollinator friendly homes and feeders.

honey bees5. Start a Campaign

Although there’s a breeding programme to protect the native Irish honeybee, as far as I can make out there’s no national campaign in Ireland to raise awareness about the plight of the bees and how important it is that we protect and help them, so consider starting one!

Encourage your communities to plant more bee friendly flowers, stop spraying unnecessarily and plant more wildflower verges and roundabouts instead of spraying and mowing.

Let’s get bees into the news and help to raise an awareness that will stop people spraying and more people planting. What do you think? Are you up for the challenge?

 

* source www.advancescience.com

Postscript:

There will be an All-Ireland Pollinator Symposium on the 17th February 2015 in Waterford led by the National BioDiversity Centre and the Pollination Ecology Research Group in TCD. Take a look at their webpage for more information and to book a place.

Green

Walking among Irish Wildflowers

July 27, 2011

WALKING IN WILDFLOWERS

When did you last walk through a field of wildflowers?

I’m searching through my memory bank and can only think of a handful of occasions that I personally have (and I’m a country gal), yet they’ve been around since neolithic times, so Sandro Cafolla of Design by Nature (www.wildflowers.ie) was explaining to us today.

WALKING IN WILDFLOWERSFrom their origin to ground preparation, weeds, growing conditions, identification and the lack of support to growers, Sandro passionately  shared some of his vast knowledge on growing crops of herbs and wildflowers to an interested group of us near Urlingford in Tipperary.

Sadly many native Irish wildflowers are now extinct or on the endangered list mostly as a result of weedkillers, farm machinery or heavy cropping. From corncockle to corn chamomile, wild cornflower and scarlet pimpernell – many of us will never see these flowers growing wild again.

WALKING IN WILDFLOWERS

Self Heal, Oxe Eye Daisy & Mallow

So why did Sandro give up his time for free today, give away seeds (and even fork out for a port-a-loo in a field? It was in the hope that we would help to spread the word…

Irish Wildflowers are great!

They can be grown commercially in Ireland as an alternative to four legged ‘crops’ and are incredibly important for biodiversity, encouraging a vast range of insects and butterflies. They can be used around fields, on verges or banks, as alternatives to mown lawns or just as cash crops – and more of us could be growing them.

WALKING IN WILDFLOWERSTo grow wildflowers successfully however, involves more than just buying a packet of seeds and scattering them a few weeks later, but that’s not for here or now (if you’re looking for more information go check out Sandro’s website). His passion for growing native Irish wildflowers was infectious, carrying us inquisitively and happily throughout the day.

WALKING IN WILDFLOWERS

Mallow & Oxeye Daisy

The following quote from their website explains why they feel it’s so important to grow Irish seeds:-

Our thoughts on imported ‘so called’ wildflowers: Retailers and online sellers are selling American, Chinese, or European flora claiming that they are wildflowers. These imports are not native Irish wildflowers and they are not suitable for nature conservation, they may not survive beyond the first year.  Often these products are not even wildflowers from other countries instead they are cultivated flowers. You will end up paying for expensive packaging and cheap substitutes. If in doubt, ask the horticulture division of Bord Bia, or the Department of Agriculture, for a list of growers of wildflowers in Ireland (and not just sellers). Watch out for false claims with seed mixtures containing cultivated flowers posing as wildflowers. When you buy native sourced Irish species they flower at the same time as the wildlife that visits the plants, native flowers can survive your local climatic conditions. Your purchases supports jobs in Ireland.

WALKING IN WILDFLOWERSStacia bought the wine …

So after a day outside in good company, catching up for ‘real’ with social media friends Margaret from Old Farm , Stasia from Our Smallholding  and Lilly from Smallholding Ireland, I’ll shortly be sitting relaxing with a mug of tea, planning where we can sow a few colourful Irish wildflowers of our own… and I’ll be wholeheartedly encouraging anyone I know to consider growing or stocking them too.