Time for future MPs to tell us what they are going to do for bees!

A recent threat to beekeeping in the UK and Ireland has had numerous people sign a multitude of different petitions to ban imports of bees from Italy.  These petitions were to go to MPs to be brought to the table for discussion, but now parliament has been dissolved us beekeepers are left in limbo waiting for the small hive beetle to appear.

It is the worst of times but also it could be the best of times… here we have an opportunity to vote for those MPs willing to fight for the bees, to promote conservation of native species and to stop the introduction of invasive non-natives like Aethina Tumida (Small hive beetle).

“The total annual cost of invasive non-native species to the British economy is estimated at approximately £1.7 billion. This is said to be a conservative figure and does not include indirect costs which could be substantially higher”

Japanese knotweed alone is said to cost the British economy an estimated £166 million per year! And with bees pollination over 70 crops the threat of the Small hive beetle is fairly serious. Stringent guidelines must be laid down for any bees being imported into the UK and Ireland, not just from Italy, as any new disease or parasite could be riding in unchallenged to cause major problems for beekeepers here.

Hopefully we can get some responses from the different political parties as to where they stand on this issue and how they propose we protect our bee populations from threat of pest and disease.

A new home for bees, just off the tarmac

Great ideas from across the pond, unused airport real estate to keep bees! Check out the story from pri.org…




Perhaps George Best Belfast City Airport would be up for some bees on site? Or even a strategic planting of their unused land?

Watch this space?


Forage for bees

You may not know that honeybees forage for 4 things.

1) Nectar – the sweet liquid from flowers

2) Pollen – vital to plant reproduction, it provides the bees a source of protien

3) Water – hydration is important!

4) Propolis – resins from trees are gathered by bees for many purposes …it is antibacterial!

So when we start to think about planting things in our gardens for bees we have these for things to consider.  Perhaps you dont have much space but can place a birdbath or shallow vessel in your garden that will provide access to water for bees.  Or maybe you own lots of land and are able to get a grant for planting trees and want to know which varieties are best? In the middle somewhere you might have a garden with some bedding area that you can plant vital sources of nectar and pollen. Whatever you have you can help!


Lets start with flowers, everyone loves to see the colours and smell the fragrance on the breeze, there are many types to choose from but we will concentrate on a few really beneficial varieties for bees:

Snowdrop and crocus – important early pollen sources for bees after winter

Borage – annual herb with edible leaves (and flowers for your pimms) bees love it! (not pimms)

Dandelion – you may see it as a weed to rid your lawn of, but this flower is so important to bee forage all season!

Poppy – a symbol of rememberance, you can remember the bees by planting this great pollen source

Clover – white clover, or trefoil, is a wonderful nitrogen fixing green manure for your garden and its great for bees

Phacelia – another green manure and probably one of the longest nectaer sources available!


Trees are great if you have the space but even some smaller varities are good too. Here are a few trees that are great forage for the honeybee (and other solitary bees too):

Pussy Willow – a great early pollen source

Lime trees – belfast streets are full of this amazing source of nectar and pollen!

Hazel – another early source of pollen for honeybees and lovely nuts later for you

Chestnut – Lovely red pollen is distiguishable to beekeepers when their bees are foraging this tree

Thorn – many types and good for hedging so even a utility plant can be helpful for bees

Thinking along those lines bramble is really good for hedgerows and who doesn’t love picking blackberries!  The bees need these type of ‘weeds’ to survive when many other traditional sources of forage are gone!


We hope this has been of use to you. There are plenty of good sites out there that will go into more detail of seasonal planting for pollinators, so don’t be afraid to search google “til yer heart’s content”!


All-Ireland Pollinator Plan being drafted!

Exciting news from Biodiversity Ireland about the All-Ireland pollinator plan, this is something to get involved with from an individual to corporate level.  Here is an excerpt from their site…

“This draft All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020 has been developed by a 15 member steering group, representative of key stakeholders. The plan provides an important framework to bring together pollinator initiatives across the island of Ireland, and is the start of a process by which we can collectively take positive steps to protect Irish pollinators and the service they provide into the future.

It is a shared plan of action. By working together we can collectively take steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels. Over the next five years this plan aims to build a solid foundation to bring about a landscape where pollinators can flourish. Whether you own a farm, a window box, or manage a park everyone has a role to play.

The Plan proposes taking action across five areas. Within each area, targets have been set and actions have been identified to help achieve that target. A total of 21 targets and 51 actions are identified.

In all cases there is scope for new initiatives and new ideas to address each target

  1. Making Ireland pollinator friendly (farmland, public land & private land)
  2. Raising awareness of pollinators and how to protect them
  3. Managed pollinators – supporting beekeepers
  4. Making sure we’re doing the right thing
  5. Collecting evidence to track change and measure success

We hope that as many of you as possible will have a look at the draft plan and provide your feedback, so that when it is published later in the year it will be as constructive and positive a document for Irish pollinators as possible.


  • A draft Action Plan will be prepared by the end of September 2014.
  • The Action Plan will be agreed with the steering group early 2015.
  • It will go out for wider consultation in January 2015
  • A one-day All-Ireland Pollinator Symposium will be held in Waterford on the 17th February 2015. This meeting will introduce the plan and provide opportunity for public engagement. It is open to everyone. Book here
  • The wider consultation phase will be completed in March 2015
  • We expect to launch the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020 in spring-summer 2015.

Note: this is a draft version and currently reads quite technically. At this point we are focussing on the content of the plan. The published version will be designed to be more readable and will include images and info-graphics. Within the published version, scientific references will be retained, but they will be included as numbered superscripts cross referenced to the appendix rather than contained within the body of the document.”

Visit their site for more info!

Mail Online article

Here is the article – Keeping bees in cities could actually be BAD for them: City hives run the risk insect starvation | Mail Online by @UC Browser http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2392608/Keeping-bees-cities-actually-BAD-City-hives-run-risk-insect-starvation.html

The shock headline for this article is meant to draw your attention, what should have been made more prominent is the actual meaty goodness in there about the need for bee friendly planting! The inner city can be fairly sparse so rooftop gardens, balconies and window box gardens are needed all the more.  We are lucky in Belfast to have such a wonderful forest of street trees maintained by the city council.  The main variety we find is lime, which gives a beautiful tasting honey, but there are many species of tree across the city which supplement the nectar sources available to the honeybee.

So keep on planting people!