Ireland’s Agriculture and Food Development Authority (Teagasc) and the Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations (FIBKA) launched a campaign to convince farmers that bees need wildflowers on farms.
It was a theme highlighted at the opening of the Teagasc national crops and cultivation open day with the debut of a new leaflet ‘How Farmers can help Bees’.
Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist Catherine Keena told tillage farmers at the open day, that pollinators, especially bees, are important, but are in decline.
“We need more wildflowers in the countryside,” Keena said. “Bees need food all year round, requiring a diversity of flowering plants in the landscape.
“Farmers can help bees by allowing space for wildflowers to grow and flower within hedgerows and field margins, around farmyards, along farm roadways and in field corners. The quest for neatness on farms should not override consideration for bees.”
Keena said bees are essential for the health of the environment, the economy and to ensure Ireland can continue to grow fruit, vegetables and crops that require bees for pollination.
“By pollinating wildflowers and trees, bees are responsible for the colorful and distinct natural beauty of our landscape that makes it a pleasant place to live and a selling point for our agricultural produce,” she said.
FIBKA president Gerry Ryan said many beekeepers work closely with farmers placing their beehives in fields of oilseed rape, peas and beans to improve pollination of the crops.
“It is important for tillage farmers growing these crops to provide pollinators with wildflowers outside the main crop flowering period,” Ryan said.
All-Ireland Pollinator Plan Steering Group chairwoman Úna Fitzpatrick said the new leaflet is important to raise awareness of the problem of decline in bees.
“Ireland has 98 species of bees and one third of them are threatened with extinction,” Fitzpatrick said.
“By having more wildflowers, we can help protect bees and the livelihood of farmers and growers who rely on their ‘free’ pollinator service.”
Tillage farmers at the open day were also reminded to spray crop protection products, in the early morning and late evening when honey bees are less active, and to notify local beekeepers before carrying out the operation.