This is the time of year when the bees are out foraging every day and building up in numbers. The Queen can be laying up to 2,500 eggs per day. These eggs are being cared for by the nurse bees and they need lots of protein to feed and care for the new young bees.
It is the older bees that do the foraging – they go out and visit lots of different flowers and trees to collect nectar, pollen and water for the hive.
The native Irish honey bee, Apis mellifera mellifera, is adapted to our Irish weather and is able to fly quite long distances, up to 5km radius and in moderate winds.
They are quite docile in their pure bred form – so very nice to work with. They build up slowly and are conservative in producing brood.
If the weather is bad, the queen can go off lay and are very responsive to our changing weather. They can also forage in mist or very light rain. They store honey for leaner times which is great for the beekeepers as you get to taste all the varieties of honey in late summer.
It’s quite amazing to see the huge range of colour that the honey comes in, even over areas that are quite close.
The bees are essential for pollinating lots of our fruits and vegetables as they go from flower to flower. For their health, they need a variety of pollen and they also need food all year around.
Worldwide, there are 20,000 types of bee species. In Europe this is nearly 2,000.
In Ireland, we have 99 different bees, 21 bumblebees, 77 solitary bees and 1 honey bee – Apis mellifera mellifera
How can you help?
Now is the time to get your gardens ready and to enjoy a few days sunshine – the following are easy steps that you can follow to help the bees.
- No Mow May – Leave the mowing for a few weeks or if you can’t, raise the blade so that it is a bit longer. Those early dandelions are very useful for the bees when there is very little forage available
- Rename your weeds as wildflowers – Just because you didn’t plant them, doesn’t mean they aren’t useful for food for the bees
- Leave some bare soil in a bank at the side for the solitary bees to nest
- Plant a tree – Native Irish trees are wonderful in terms of forage for the bees. They provide food all through the year, especially some of the fruit trees.
- Stop spraying – Anything that you spray has a negative effect on the soil and the water. Consider companion planting and a hoe to keep your garden sorted.
These are wonderful for encouraging a variety of wildlife. A shallow edge with even a small area can be a great resource for all kinds of wildlife. Bees don’t swim so make sure to put in a few small stones that they can stand on them and allow them to drink safely.
- Let your ivy and bramble grow –This provides the last good forage in early autumn for the bees so that they can build up well for winter. This allows them to stay strong and keep the hive warm with a constant brood nest temperature of approx 36.5 c
- Get signage if you’re worried about your neighbours – “Bees eat here “ “Biodiversity hotspot” etc. – you can be creative.
- Pledge your garden for pollinators – A very clear year round guide and plan of what to do and when to help lots of pollinators
- Plant some pollinator-friendly seeds – Some are better for solitary or bumblebees
Vipers Bugloss – Echium vulgare
Bush Vetch – Vicia Sepium
Lavender – Lavandula x intermedia “Gros bleu”
Lungwort- Pulmonaria/Marjoram – Origanum vulgare –
Thyme – Thymus polytrichus – Chives/Rosemary
Birds foot trefoil
Remember that variety is key – the pollinators need food all year round. If lots of people do lots of small activities, this gives a wider range of area for the bees to forage successfully in.
We can all help the bees to survive and thrive through our efforts !