Asking for help
My first place to ask for help was Facebook and had some mixed comments. One or two people said that I needed to kill them all as soon as possible or smoke them out, which I wouldn’t want to do. Inishowen Home Baking said that they needed to have a nest professionally removed because the honey made a real mess and forced them to replaster some walls. They also mentioned that bees can be a bit annoyed when disturbed and advised keeping children away from the area. With bees being on the decline in Ireland I’ll need to come up with a method of removal that won’t kill the colony.
Foyle Bee Keeping Association
My next contact for help was Willie McMullan, one of the founder members of the Foyle Bee Keeping Association that was set up in 1999. The association has members stretching from Greencaste to Malin and Derry. Willie was extremely helpful and gave me a bit more insight into the habits of bees. When honey bee colonies get too large, they swarm and split up to form new nests, the original nest (such as mine) will still be in use. I had hoped that the bees would all just up and leave at the end of summer and move to a warmer climate, but that probably won’t happen. Ordinarily Willie and other professional beekeepers would only be too happy to remove a nest, if they could get to it, which in my case they can’t as it’s encased in concrete. The Beekeepers get called out to a lot of false alarms so Willie asked me to send in a few pictures to study.
The following day Willie had his conclusion. They are not bees but one of the 180 hover fly species that pollinate flowers in Ireland; this has saved Willie and his team a wasted visit. I feel a bit safer walking up the stairs now and I’m sure the postie will be more at ease when pushing the mail though the letter box.
While I was waiting for Willie to deliver the good news I did a bit more research about bees and found the An Taisce (The National Trust for Ireland) site very informative.
Bees in Ireland
Ireland has 101 species of bee – 14 are well-known social species including the honeybee and 13 bumblebee species. The remainder are lesser known solitary bees that do not form colonies but make individual nests.
Bees are not only a large component of biodiversity, but they also provide a valuable ecosystem service of pollination. The majority of our flowering plants require pollination to reproduce. As humans, we rely on pollination for 1/3 of all foods that we eat. In Ireland, crops such as apples, strawberries, clover and oilseed rape all benefit from pollination and the value of this service to the economy has been estimated at €53 million per year. The worldwide estimated economic value of pollination is € 153.000.000.000
30% of bees are currently threatened in Ireland, with this figure rising fast. Many butterfly and hoverfly species are also threatened. The main threats to pollinating species include habitat destruction, agricultural intensification, and a lack of food sources and nesting sites.
Here are some suggestions for attracting pollinators into the garden:
Tips for attracting bees and other pollinators
1. Avoid pesticide use
2. Use local native plants.
3. Chose a diverse range of colourful flowering species.
4. Choose species that will flower at differing times through the growing season.
5. Plant flowers in clumps, this will attract more pollinators
6. Choose flowers with differing shapes, again providing a range of flower shapes means more bees species can benefit.
7. Plant in the sunniest and most shaded areas.