Friday 20 April 2018

Bumblebees get rare buzz in the Burren

Nicola Corless

THE Burren in Co Clare has been identified as the most important habitat in Britain and Ireland for a very rare species of bee.

A new population of the rare Great Yellow Bumblebee (right), a species threatened with extinction in Ireland, has been found in the scenic Clare countryside. Previously unknown colonies of both the Shrill Carder bee and the Red Shanked Carder bee -- two other rare species -- were also found.

"These new populations are very significant as they confirm that the Burren is one of the principal sites for bumblebee conservation in Ireland," Dr Una Fitzpatrick, an ecologist with the National Biodiversity Data Centre, said.

The discoveries were made as part of a weekend-long 'BeeBlitz' in the Burren last month.

Dr Fitzpatrick organised the event to survey bumblebees currently under threat of extinction in Ireland.

The event also brought together 22 of Ireland's leading bee specialists.

Bees are Ireland's most important pollinators and provide a vital ecological and economic service to society.

The contribution bees make to agriculture and the horticultural sector in Ireland is worth €50m each year. Unfortunately, of the 101 different species of bee in Ireland, around 30 are now threatened with extinction.

The Burren features three- quarters of all the species of bumble bee found in Ireland. "In the Burren, the first step is to figure out where the rare species are and if they are still healthy and that was the primary aim of the blitz in July. Despite knowing how important the Burren is for bees, we don't have particularly good data on bees there.

"The first thing is we need to know where they are and then we need to nurture them. Landowners in the Burren can help with that," Dr Fitzpatrick stated.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre has compiled a pocket-size book to help people identify different types of bumblebee.

"It is like a swatch book detailing identifying features. The main way to tell the difference between species is to look at the colour of the bee's tail. In the Burren, we'd love if people kept an eye out for bumblebees and took note of what they have seen so we can gather more data about the bee population there," Dr Fitzpatrick said.

Irish Independent

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