The Native Irish Honey Bee was originally plentiful in Northern Europe, however numbers were decimated due to hybridisation with other subspecies. The purest strain of the bee remains in Ireland.
This week we spoke to Tom O’Brien of Limerick Beekeepers Association who keeps this breed and spoke of the importance of preserving this bee and the threats to its population.
Why do we need honeybees?
- Bees are the most efficient pollinator of our crops
- They pollinate many of our animal feeds, so essential for meat, egg and dairy products
- Bees pollinate our trees and wildflowers- therefore essential for our populations of birds, bats, mammals and everything that uses nature for food and shelter.
A study by the department of the environment found bees are worth €53 million a year to our economy.
What makes the native Irish honey bee unique?
- They are dark in colour, but colouration can vary
- As honey bees fly freely, their mating cannot be controlled so the native bee cross breeds with imported species causing hybridization.
- Ireland has one of the highest populations of these honeybees in the world.
- They are known to be docile with low swarming tendencies
- They are adapting to sparing their stores during the long Irish winters
- They can fly at much lower temperatures than other bees
- They are incredibly productive honey producers, regardless of the weather
What can I do to help the bees?
- Avoid the use of toxic pesticides in your garden and farmland
- Don’t import non-native bees
- Buy honey from beekeepers who keep the native Irish honey bee
- If you are interested in beekeeping, ensure you undergo training like the courses offered by Limerick Beekeepers Association- getting a hive without training can cause much more harm than good
- Do not cut your hedgerows, instead allow them to flower
- Grow pollinator friendly plants like clover, gorse, hazel, willow, holly, blackthorn, bramble and trees like sycamore, lime, chestnut and cherry
The All Ireland Pollinator Plan is a framework bringing together different sectors across the island of Ireland to create a landscape where pollinators can survive and thrive. It is implemented by the National Biodiversity Data Centre.
Check out the Native Irish Honey Bee Society is dedicated to helping the conservation of our honey bee population.