Saturday 20 April 2019

Wexford scientist to feature in new book

Professor Blánaid White
Professor Blánaid White

Brendan Keane

The work of a scientist from Co. Wexford is to feature in a new national series of Science Apprentice books from University College Dublin (UCD) aimed at encouraging primary school children to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Blánaid White, from Ballycullane, has found that planting flowers and not mowing our lawns as often are ways in which people can help to keep our vital bee population from further dwindling.

She is an Associate Professor with the School of Chemical Sciences in DCU and she said a slight change in attitude could see big improvements in addressing the world's dwindling bee population.

Professor White also said that everyday foods like apples, strawberries, tomatoes, beans and rapeseed oil could all disappear if current threats to the bee population aren't tackled.

'All of nature's pollinators, and bees in particular, are under global threat,' said Professor White.

'Around the world we've noticed that there has been colony collapse and entire colonies of bees have disappeared,' she added.

'We're not entirely sure why this is happening just yet but certainly planting flowers is critical in Ireland and across the world.'

Scientists believe that infection by certain mites, overuse of weed-killing chemicals and a general lack of foodstuffs for bees are the key causes of the population decline and Professor White said the role bees play in spreading pollen from plant to plant is very important.

'The amount of fruit that those plants produce is based on how much they've been pollinated,' she said.

'When strawberries, soft fruits and even oil seed rape are pollinated effectively their yield is up to 30 per cent higher than it would otherwise be,' she added.

Her views are backed up by the Irish Pollinators Research Network which said it's important for people to allow wildflowers to grow and not to just cultivate lawns.

'It would also help if people waited longer when mowing lawns to let flowers grow long enough for bees to feed from them,' said Professor White.

She added that weeds also have a part to play: 'The best gardens are those that have lots of wildflowers.'

She added that bees disappearing would have a massive affect on food crops.

'A lot of fruit and many of our main crops would either not bear fruit or would be massively diminished,' she said.

Professor White's work will appear in a book called 'Up In The Air' which is due out on Saturday, November 10.

It was produced by UCD and supported by the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme and the Environmental Protection Agency.

'These books are a great way for parents to get their children interested in science and technology,' said Professor White.

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