Tidy Towns battle may be killing off bumble bees
THE Tidy Towns competition may be unwittingly helping to kill off the bumble bee by removing its natural habitat.
Experts last night warned that keeping lawns and grass verges cut short and spraying weedkillers around the bases of fences and signposts to keep them tidy was stopping the growth of flowers on which wild bees and other insects depend.
Clare-based insect expert John Murphy said that the bee was also declining because of intensive farming, wetter and colder summers and the potentially deadly bee mite.
He urged people to leave parts of their garden untouched for wildlife, including patches of wild flowers in the lawn to help the bees.
"The colourful grasses, weeds and wild flowers that we see Tidy Towns' committees trimming may be unsightly to the human eye but they are a vital natural habitat for the bumble bee," he said.
"Without their habitat, bees won't be able to build their beehives and the population will die out."
His comments were echoed by Dr Jane Stout, a botanist at Trinity College Dublin.
"There are 101 species of bee in Ireland, including the most well-known species -- the honeybee -- and over a third of our bee species are in decline.
"All these species of bee need flowers for nectar and pollen, on which both the adults and larvae depend for survival. The wild clovers, vetches and other pea-family flowers have been shown to be particularly important for several of our rarer bee species.
The Department of the Environment, which runs the TidyTowns competition, insisted the event always encourages the protection and enhancement of wildlife to sustain and enhance Ireland's threatened biodiversity.
A spokesman added that the maintenance and development of wildlife habitats accounted for 50 marks in the judging, which takes place in summer.