Thursday, 18 February 2016

HELP SAVE OURS BEES - What you can do at Home and in your School Garden

Bees are very important and without your help they could quickly disappear.

'Without bees we won’t be able to grow our own fruits and vegetables, and our wild flowers will begin to disappear making Ireland a very dull place. We don’t want this to happen. We want to hear the buzz of hard working bees carrying out their important pollination work. We want them to be there so that we can grow healthy food to feed you, and so that you can grow healthy food to feed your children someday. To stop bees disappearing from Ireland we need your help. We need you to tell everyone how important bees are. We also need you to make your school and garden a safe place for bees to live'.
We nees bees in the wild to pollinate our apples, strawberries, pears, beans, tomatoes, pumpkins, blackberries and much, much more. 

'There are 97 different species (types) of bees in Ireland. We have one honeybee, 20 different bumblebees and 77 different solitary bees. The most important thing to know is that you shouldn’t be scared of bees. To them we’re just big boring giants that walk around their world. Unless you threaten them, bees will not attack humans. They won’t chase after you if you leave them alone. If a bee comes close to you, attracted by your bright colourful t-shirt, or the nice smell from your shampoo, just sit still and it will fly off when it realises you’re not a flower!'

'A lot of our hard-working pollinators are in danger of disappearing forever (becoming extinct). Changes to their homes, the use of chemicals on our crops and nasty diseases spell trouble for bees and insects. We need to work to protect them or they may not be around for much longer'.

'Honeybees live in hives and are looked after by beekeepers. Beekeepers do an important job by keeping an eye on their hive and making sure the honeybees are happy and have enough to eat, especially over the winter months. Bumblebees and solitary bees prefer to look after themselves. They don’t live in hives but in nests that they make themselves. Bumblebees make their nests on the ground, hidden in long grass. Solitary bees nest in tiny burrows that they make in soil or wood'.

'What Can You Do To Help In Your School?

1 Plant lots of different flowers in pots or flowerbeds around your school. Your teacher will be able to get a list of what flowers bees like best. Try to make sure there are flowers to provide food for bees every month from spring through to the autumn. We need food every day – bees do too!
2 Plant a shrub that flowers in early spring – this provides very hungry queen bumblebees with lots to eat. Queen bumblebees have to visit about 6000 flowers every day when they come out of hibernation! Good shrubs are Willow, Hazel, Broom, Berberis, Pyracantha, Mahonia.
3 Grow some fruits and vegetables like strawberries, raspberries, peas, courgettes or apples. Their flowers will provide food for bees in spring and early summer. In return you’ll get healthy nutritious food.
4 Let it grow! Bees love weeds like dandelions, so let them grow instead of cutting them. If you have areas of grass around the school, ask if you can leave strips or small patches uncut until late summer.
5 Provide some safe places for bumblebees or solitary bees to make their nests. a) If your school is in the countryside you might have some hedgerows. Bumblebees love to make their nests in long grass at the bottom of hedgerows. b) Most solitary bees will burrow into banks of bare soil to make a little cosy nest. They like these banks to be south facing so the sun warms them up in the morning. You might have some areas around the school where you can scrape back some grass to create a bare bank of soil. c) Other solitary bees like to nest in holes in wood. Bee’s teeth are strong enough to burrow into soil but not into wood so we have to make these holes for them! If there are wooden fence posts around the school drill small south/east facing holes for solitary bees to make their nests in. These holes
should be 10cm in depth and 4-8mm diameter. A range of different diameters is best. Ideally the holes should be drilled at a height of 1.5-2m (or as high as possible), d) Make some solitary bee nest boxes and put them up around the school. Your teacher will be able to get instructions on how to do this.
6 If you find a nesting or hibernating bee in areas like long grass, bare soil or wood around the school, don’t disturb it. Just leave it alone so that it can carry out its important pollination work. I
7 Don’t use chemicals (pesticides) to kill weeds or pests around the school. These can be harmful to bees and make them sick.
8 Tell all your friends and family how important pollinators are. Talk to your teacher and see what projects you can come up to help our bees and insects.
9 If your school is working on the Green-Schools’ Biodiversity programme, you can use your Habitat Map activity to identify what plants on your school grounds are good for bees. From these findings you can include some or all of the actions above in your “Action Plan” step. You could also do a Bumblebee Survey in Year 1 (between April and June) and again 12 months later as part of your “Monitoring and Evaluation” step to see how your actions are making a difference to the number of visitors buzzing and bumbling around your school!'

Le meas,
Conor Nelligan 

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