Ruth Wilson, farmland pollinator officer with the National Biodiversity Data Centre working on the All Ireland Pollinator Plan, has some advice on how to help pollinators on-farm. Speaking on Teagasc's The Environment Edge podcast, she said hedge management, maintaining semi-natural habitats, creating field margins and creating homes for solitary bees are all actions farmers can take to create a safe space for pollinators such as bees on-farm.
Other measures farmers are currently doing to protect pollinators includes scraping holes on south-west facing banks for ground nesting pollinators, while others drilled holes in non-treated pieces of wood for cavity nesting bees.
According to Wilson, solitary bees only travel up to 300m for food, so added that it was important that farmers ensured there were food sources nearby, such as wildflowers. Buffer strips not only help water quality, but they can also help pollinators. Field margins also provide a space for pollinators to proliferate.
Is there an issue with our pollinators?
In Ireland, we are lucky to have a wide range of pollinators on our farms. According to Wilson, there are around 100 species of wild pollinators which are very valuable for food production and wider benefits.
There is a decline in wild pollinators, with rare species now being found in a decreasing number of areas due to a decline in semi natural habitats.
Our pollinators on-farm include 100 species of wild bees and 21 bumblebees, who are the top pollinators. Solitary bees are also good pollinators, as well as hoverflies, which are known as the 'farmer’s friend' as they also aid in pest control.
Protecting farmland pollinators
The National Data Centre for Biodiversity is running the Protecting Farmland Pollinators, an EIP project that has come out of the All Ireland Pollinator Plan. At present, there are 40 farmers in Kildare involved in the project, with 25 farms already improving the pollinator score on their farm.