How can we help bees?

Today is World Bee Day! The purpose of the international day is to acknowledge the role of bees and other pollinators for the ecosystem.

In Ireland there are 77 solitary bee species, 21 bumble bee species and one honey bee species. One third of our bee species are under threat of extinction.

In this video, Aoife Leader, Walsh Scholar explains the importance of bees to the environment and biodiversity on Irish farms. Aoife identifies the simple measures farmers can take to help protect bees on their farm.

Why are bees important?

Pollination of food crops(Oilseed Rape, Peas, Beans, Apples, Soft Fruits)

Pollination of wild flowers and trees

Production of honey

Bees can be used to show a green image for Irish food

Why bee numbers are declining?

Reducion in wildflowers. Pollen provides protein for bees while nectar provides carbohydrates

Less nesting sites for bees

Lack of continuity of flowering plants: Bees require food all year round, requiring a diversity of flowering plants in the landscape

How can we help bees?

Allow space for diversity of wildflowers to grow

Along farm roadways, around farmyards, around field margins, in the corners of fields

Field Margins

Fence off from livestock

Cut or graze after flowering

Do not fertilise

Do not spray

Non farmed areas - around the farmyard, in field corners, along farm roadways

Allow flowering plants to flower

Do not spray

Do not cut until after flowering

Spraying insecticides in tillage crops

Spray early morning and late evening when honey bees are less active

Notify local beekeepers


Irish hedgerows are full of flora and fauna if well managed. They are of value to pollinators only if flowers are present. A variety of hedgerow types is desirable on every farm.

Aim for a diversity of flowering plants - allow mature trees, new saplings and climbers grow and flower

Allow wildflowers to grow at the base

When cutting the hedge, side trim to a triangular shape with a wide base

Leave the peak on the hedge as high as possible

Allow individual thorn trees mature at irregular intervals

Bee boxes

Some solitary bees are cavity nesters and nest in hollowed twigs or holes in wood or masonry.

Making a Bee Box

Wood - not treated with insecticide / preservative

Selection of hole sizes - between 3/8 and ¼ inch

Clean smooth holes

Selection of holes - Include hollow stems e.g. bamboo

Holes must not interconnect - dead-end required

Pack with subsoil - substitute clay bank

When placing the bee box, it is important to have the box near flowering plants, at least 40 cm off the ground, in a sheltered and sunny spot facing south to south-west and fixed firmly, as bees will be navigating home to the bee box.

Source: EMM/ The Agriculture and Food Development Authority