Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 21 October 2017

'Tidiness killing off the bees': Farmers urged to leave margins of ditches and fields alone

Fianna Fáil’s amendment seeks to restrict the proposed cutting of hedgerows in August exclusively to road-side hedges.
Fianna Fáil’s amendment seeks to restrict the proposed cutting of hedgerows in August exclusively to road-side hedges.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Farmers have been urged to leave wildflowers in field margins and along hedgerows to help support the declining numbers of bees.

Ireland has 98 different species of bees, with a third of them now threatened with extinction.

Teagasc countryside management specialist Catherine Keena warned that the drive for tidiness on farms was helping to kill off the important crop pollinators.

"We need more pollinators in the countryside. Bees need food all year round," she said.

"Farmers can help bees by allowing space for wildflowers to grow and flower within hedgerows and field margins, around farmyards, along farm roadways and in field corners. The quest for neatness on farms should not override consideration for bees."

Ms Keena urged people to just leave some of the margins of ditches and fields alone.

She said there was also a message in it for the wider public and county councils. "You go around the countryside now and you see everybody trying to make everything perfect," she said, adding that hedgerows should not be sprayed off, as it kills the wildflowers.

Ms Keena advised farmers spraying insecticides to spray early or late, as it helps protect the honeybee because they are less active.

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Bees aid in the pollination of oilseed rape, peas, beans and all soft fruits such as apples.

"To me, the most important reason farmers should be interested in bees is that we are selling our produce based on our green image, and our bees are declining," she said.

Ms Keena added that the measures under GLAS, such as the sand and the bee boxes, were helping preserve them.

Gerry Ryan, president of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Associations, said many beekeepers work closely with farmers by placing beehives in fields of oilseed rape, peas and beans to aid pollination.

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