All-Ireland Plan to Save our Bees & Other Pollinators

The recent launch of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan identifies actions to help protect pollinators and the livelihoods of farmers who rely on their invaluable pollination service. In recent years the decline of our wild flowers has been decimating our bees and pollinating insects. This Plan which aims to help our bees and other pollinating insects to flourish has been agreed by 68 organisations and makes Ireland one of the first countries in Europe to have such a strategy.

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When we think of pollinating insects we usually think of the honey bees but there are many other bees and insects that pollinate our crops and plants. Most of them are declining in numbers in recent years which if it continues would be disastrous for many crops and wild plants and ultimately for humanity and the planet.

This new Pollinator Plan identifies actions that can be taken on farmland, public land and private land to deal with the problem. These actions include creating pollinator highways along our transport routes, making our public parks pollinator friendly and encouraging the public to see their gardens as potential pit-stops for our busy bees. It is also about raising awareness on pollinators and how to protect them. With the support of organisations                        A swarm of honey bees gather         like An Taisce Green-Schools, it aims                        on a tree branch in                             to ensure that everyone, from schoolchildren to Castleblayney earlier this year.         farmers, gardeners, local authorities and businesses,                                                            knows what pollinators need and which simple cost-                                                              effective actions they can take to help. The Plan will                                                              also support Ireland’s bee-keepers in keeping our                                                                  Honeybees healthy.

“Unfortunately, Irish pollinators are in decline, with one third of our 98 bee species threatened with extinction,” said Dr Úna Fitzpatrick from the National Biodiversity Data Centre, who chaired the Plan steering group. She added “bees are declining because we’ve drastically reduced the areas where they can nest and the amount of food our landscape provides for them.” If you’re a pollinator, finding enough food is the biggest challenge you have to face. Fertiliser application has resulted in increased crop yields, but in strong declines in wild flowers in managed field and in adjacent semi-natural habitats. Our tendency to tidy up the landscape rather than allowing wildflowers to grow along roadsides, field margins, and in parks and gardens is also playing a big part in fewer of these resources being available. The Pollinator Plan is not just about protecting bees but also about protecting the livelihood of farmers and growers who rely on their ‘free’ pollinator service, which allows consumers to buy Irish fruit and vegetables at an affordable price. This service is worth over £7 million per annum for apples in Northern Ireland, and €3.9 million for oilseed rape in the Republic of Ireland.

It’s not just crops; about three-quarters of our wild plants also require insect pollinators. Without pollinators the Irish landscape would be a very different and much less beautiful place. The value of

pollination to tourism and branding our produce abroad is enormous, but has never been assessed in a monetary sense. Dr Jane Stout, Associate Professor in Botany at Trinity College Dublin, who co-chaired the group, added: “If we want pollinators to be available to pollinate our crops and wild plants for future generations we need to manage the landscape in a more sustainable way and create a joined-up network of diverse and flower-rich habitats as well as reduce our use of chemical insecticides. This doesn’t just mean in the countryside, but in our towns and villages as well.” Responsibility for delivering the 81 actions has been shared out between the supporting organisations, which include the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Teagasc, Bord Bía, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Heritage Council, Fáilte Ireland, An Taisce Green Schools, Tidy Towns and Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations,.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre will track success in the Plan by measuring increases in the abundance and diversity of pollinators within the Irish landscape as the 81 actions are implemented. For details of the Plan and practical tips to help our pollinators see http://www.biodiversityireland.ie/pollinator-plan.

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              A typical insect / bee hotel is a home for pollinators and a great educational           resource for children

In our own county the initiative to develop Monaghan as a biodiversity town will involve helping to make the area in and around Monaghan town more suitable for pollinating insects. This will involve planting apple trees and wild flowers and so will complement the Pollinator Plan. For details see http://www.monaghantownbiodiversity.com. The challenge of addressing the decline of bees globally will be one that local man Philip McCabe will be tackling in his new role as President of Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations.

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