I will be helping to run a pollinator workshop in Castlebar, Co Mayo on the 21st February. This FREE workshop (funded by Mayo County Council, Heritage Office) is ideal for community groups, graveyard committees, Tidy town groups and anyone interested in pollinators. Please book your place as detailed below.
This is an indoor workshop only and will focus on introducing Irish pollinators and the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan with emphasis on community actions. We will look at how simple actions can bring positive results for our local pollinator populations.
As autumn makes it’s fast progress, it is the final chance for our pollinators to make the best of the last flowers. Some are battered and bruised from their long season; others (like the new queens bees) are building up their resources to get them through the winter, hidden away in quiet and neglected corners of your garden.
Last week we spent a lovely week in North Wales. I was lucky to spot two bumblebees that I haven’t yet seen here in Ireland.
Mountain bumblebees have been recorded in Ireland since 1974. As the name suggests they are associated with upland bogs and heaths, exactly the type of habitat I saw this one. They are a distinctive bumble with half the abdomen a rich orangey-red. Currently this species has only been recorded in the east and north of Ireland.
The second bumble is the Tree bumblebee. There is yet to be a confirmed record in Ireland. It was first recorded in Britain in 2001 and has been expanding it’s range since reaching the Welsh coast in 2012. As this bee likes to use aerial cavities to nest, such as holes in trees, it has been making use of bird nest-boxes in Britain. In fact, it is thought that the species is increasing because of the expansion of urban gardens throughout Europe, which the Tree bumble has been able to exploit for both forage and nesting resources. It’s a very distinctive bee with a uniform brown/ginger thorax with a white tail.
After a dry spell we are back to showery, mild weather typical of Ireland. The rain makes things grow, and not just the vegetables, but the slug populations, and weeds too. One finds oneself in a constant battle of wills. Thankfully the frog population is healthy and at the moment we are seeing lots of tiny frogs less than 1 inch long!
In late June, there always seems to be a huge spurt of growth, from grass, hedges and trees. Pathways would soon disappear and gates and gaps would close in, without some clipping and mowing. In many respects we are just trying to tame nature. Without us this garden would soon become a truly wild place.
Among the flowers pollinators are busy and I hope happy.
Tonight in Ireland, 23rd June, is St. John’s Eve. A midsummer festival celebrated with bonfires at sunset. It is not a tradition that is widely celebrated any more, which is shame. So tonight I will celebrate with the joys of midsummer – some of the flowers!
HAPPY MIDSUMMER one and all.
Over the last couple of years I have been trying to increase the number of flowers in the garden, specifically to help our pollinators but also for our own enjoyment. Flowers add so much – colour, scent and of course the fun of watching bees, butterflies and other insects.
My wildflower success this year has been ragged robin. I have always loved this flower and two years ago bought some wildflower seed as I wanted it around our pond. The seeds didn’t germinate very well but I gather seed last year from the couple of plants I did manage to grow and these germinated brilliantly. So I had enough plants to try some in the meadow too, where I thought it may be a bit dry but where they seem to be doing well despite the lack of rain. Buttercups seem to be doing particularly well this year and many fields around us are yellow with them.
Meanwhile the bee and butterfly garden is proving attractive to bees but not so many butterflies yet! Some of the delphiniums have suffered slug damage so I may need to grow a few more.
Other flowers include these lovely heritage roses which clamber though the hedge. They are heavy scented. And the blue irises by the pond always seem to do well here though I have tried to grow them elsewhere in the garden and they disappeared after one poor year of flowering.
Finally this flower is actually a vegetable – scorzonera. I tried growing last year as a veg but again had poor germination so thought I’d leave a few plants in the ground and see if I could get seed. They have rewarded me with lovely yellow flowers that smell of marshmallows. The flowers grow on tall stalk about 60-80cm high.
Get to know the local seasonal bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies that help to pollinate our food crops, their lifestyles, favourite plants and habitat needs. Find out about some simple steps you can take to help the ongoing national project to conserve and build our pollinator populations.
The day includes two short walks to practise identifying pollinators (weather permitting!) and their forage plants.
10:30 AM to 4.00 PM near Straide, Foxford, Co Mayo, Ireland
€35, including tea and coffee, information pack
Bring rain-gear and strong shoes for the observation walks.
For booking and more information please use contact form:
Today we are celebrating biodiversity. Biodiversity is all around us – in the wonders of the natural world that surround us; it is part of the food we eat; it provides us with clean water and fertile soil. And yet more than ever it is under threat. The vital ecosystems that support Earth are constantly being bombarded by man, be it with pollution, destruction of habitats or species extinction to name just a few. Today though should be a day for celebration. So let us put aside all the negative things we are doing to mother nature and celebrate all her glory.
One of the best ways to celebrate is to get out there and enjoy what the world has to offer. It may be just a walk in the park – but get outside, enjoy it!
Here in Ireland you can get involved in the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s ‘5,000 biodiversity records challenge’. All they ask you to do it get outside and record some wildlife and send you records to them – for more information click here.
Here are some of my pollinator biodiversity highlights from this weekend.
As the next event for the Mayo Naturalists’ Field Club, I am giving a course with my friend Celia this coming Saturday near Straide Co Mayo – May 21st from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm
The morning will focus on the main Irish pollinator groups, their current status, lifestyles and habitat needs. Weather permitting we will observe pollinator activity in the immediate area: bumblebees, Spring butterflies and early hoverflies.
In the afternoon we will take a walk to look at different habitat types and pollinator forage plants, review the aims of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020, and discuss recently published strategies for putting them into practice at local level.
Cost: €10.00 (kindly subsidised by Mayo Heritage)
Please bring: any observations on pollinator activity in your neighbourhood this spring; rain-gear, stout shoes, and a packed lunch. Tea and coffee will be provided.
Booking essential as places are limited. Please fill out the form below to book or for more information.
As May finally warms up the pollinators are returning in force to the garden. Top attractions are the fruit blossoms, dandelions and comfrey. I wish I could share the smell of the crab apple blossom. The tree is white with blossom and smells divine. It’s popular not only with the honeybees but also at least three different hoverflies. As always the bees are just loving the comfrey. It is also a good place to find the hoverfly Rhingia campestris. This is an easily identified hoverfly here in Ireland as it is our only one with a long snout!
Bee numbers are still low with few workers about, but hopefully the warmer temperatures will result in more.
Butterflies numbers are low too – mainly orange tips and whites at the moment.