Nature on our doorsteps: Helping our springtime bees

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

Over the next month or so, honeybees, queen bumblebees, and solitary bees will be emerging from their winter resting places. 

The fat reserves that kept them alive during winter will be almost gone, so the first thing they need to do is search for nutrient-rich pollen. 

Garden Heathers are an important source of food for bees in springtime 1

Garden Heathers are an important source of food for bees in springtime

Pollen will replace the energy that was used up over winter and will get them ready for the breeding season ahead. 

However, not many plants bloom in early springtime, so bees may need to fly long distances to find food. 

 

Weather at this time of the year can also be very changeable, making the arrival of spring feel like a ‘start-stop-start’ situation. 

This can be very tricky for bees, and if good weather is delayed for too long, some will not survive. 

Bees will therefore welcome a plentiful supply of pollen nearby, so that they do not waste vital energy searching long distances.

Crocuses are apprciated by us as well as by bees in early spring. 1

Crocuses are appreciated by us as well as by bees in early spring

Studies on pollinating insects undertaken by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (www.biodiversityireland.ie) indicate that in February, March, and April, the flowers that are vital for the survival of early bees are Dandelions, garden Heathers, crocuses, Hellebores, Lungwort, Bush Vetch, and Rosemary.  The catkins of Willow trees are also very important. 

Growing these plants in our gardens and parks can therefore help our emerging bees survive until warmer weather arrives and more flowers come into bloom.

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