Category Archives: Forage

Irish Hedgerow Destruction

Everytime you see a severed stump, or more commonly a row of severed stumps like this – imagine the lovely flowering trees that once stood there and ask yourself who could do such a thing and more importantly why.

Badly cut hedge
Badly cut hedge

Hedges like these are not the exception  in this country – they are the rule and when you consider the number of trees subjected to this abuse it’s no wonder we’ve got a biodiversity meltdown!

And why on earth was this tree cut? It’s the only one left!

The last tree in the hedge

Look at this brutal mess.

Massacred Hedge
Massacred Hedge

If mature trees are decapitatated then cut to the knuckle year after year they cannot flower and they cannot fruit. No flowers and no fruit means no pollinators and no birds. It’s very simple isn’t it?

Furthermore – this annual savagery slowly kills the hedge as the height is reduced year after year and those poor shredded stumps cannot heal properly so fungal diseases get in leading to rot and death. Eventually you are left with a gappy  hedge consisting of elder and grass. Lovely.

Hedges need to be at least 2 metres tall or birds can’t nest in them.  If they are too low to the ground,  predators can reach into the nests and take the young.  They also need cover above the nest or crows will walk along that lovely flat top and take the eggs or the young birds.

If a hedge is encroaching onto a road then lightly trim the sides there’s no need to cut the bloody top off.

Let’s not forget that hedges are carbon sinks but only if you let them grow. The taller they get the more water they will use so there will be less waterlogging and less soil washed into the rivers. The list of benefits is very long and I’ve hardly started.

A couple of links here for further reading:

Bee Trees – Hawthorn

Green pollen?

Towards the end of the season you will probably have observed bright green pollen loads coming in – like this. Please excuse poor photo.

Green pollen loads

If you ask your local beekeeper, he or she is likely to tell you that it is meadowsweet. However, if you doggedly search the drifts of meadowsweet in your locale for a bee with full pollen baskets, you will see that the pollen they are carrying is actually a creamy yellow. See photo below:

Continue reading Green pollen?

Bee Flower – Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot is in bloom now – 9th March 2017.  It is an Irish native and a member of the aster family – their asterness is obvious in this rather poor header photograph.

I didn’t realise the bees visit this plant but here is the evidence – note the lemon yellow pollen loads.

Honey bee visiting Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) note yellow pollen loads
Honey bee visiting Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) note yellow pollen loads

Coltsfoot is unusual in that the flowers come out before any leaves are visible. The heart shaped leaves come along later and are not at all like a dandelion.

It is thought that Coltsfoot flowers are a cure for coughs.

Click here for more March bee flowers

Copyright ©, 2017.  All Rights Reserved.

Irish Beekeepers Protest

Beekeepers of Ireland rise up and protest against the Heritage Bill before all this goes up in flames!

Gorse in full bloom
Gorse in full bloom

Meet outside Dáil Éireann with Gerry Ryan et al at 12.30 on 2nd March 2017 and let our Senators know we are against this stupid Bill!

Click here for more about the Heritage Bill

Click here for the full text of the  Seanad debate on this Bill in November2016 and which will be continued this Thursday

Heritage Bill?

The Heritage Bill, due before the Seanad this week (21st February 2017 ) seems to have nothing at all to do with Heritage other than to extend the period landowners or County Councils can burn, cut,  grub or otherwise erase the natural bit from the landscape. That natural bit is the bit our bees rely on.

This the part of the bill that will most affect us:

“…permit to the burning of vegetation in March, during such period or periods and in such areas of the State as the Minister may specify. Section 8 also provides for the amendment of section 40 to allow landowners or their agents to cut, grub or destroy vegetation in any hedge or ditch during August, subject to such Regulations as the Minister may make….”

I don’t need to tell you that the gorse (aka furze) is in bloom in March and our bees are all over it gathering vital early spring forage. If it is grubbed out and burnt at all, but especially in March, our bees, wild bees and other insects will all be deprived of a valuable early spring pollen source.

Gorse in full bloom
Gorse in full bloom

As for cutting, grubbing and burning in August – well I  also don’t need to tell you that – although our honey crop may be in, our bees are busily working all the other flowers in the hedgerows for as long as the weather allows in their build up for winter. Blackberry, for one, can flower well into October.

Let’s not forget that the heather will bloom all the way through August and into September. Heather is defined as scrub too.

Ling heather (Calluna vulgaris) honey
Heather in August

Hedgecutting usually means  decapitating mature hawthorn trees so there will be no flowers for the bees on such victims for several years.

Then there’s other important bee trees – willow and hazel – otherwise known as scrub. We need all of this stuff!

Let’s not forget the ivy either!

This bill is due before the Seanad this week – 21st February 2017 -and beekeepers need to make their feelings known to their TDs, Senators and MEPs before it is all too late:

All TDs

Fine Gael

Fianna Fail

Sinn Fein

Independent Alliance






Here’s the section or the ‘Heritage’ Bill that will have most effect on bees, birds and other wildlife – vertebrate and invertebrate:

Part 3

Section 7 sets out definitions relating to the wildlife primary legislation.

Section 8 provides for amendments to section 40 of the Wildlife Acts. The new provisions under section 8 give the Minister power by Regulations to permit to the burning of vegetation in March, during such period or periods and in such areas of the State as the Minister may specify. Section 8 also provides for the amendment of section 40 to allow landowners or their agents to cut, grub or destroy vegetation in any hedge or ditch during August, subject to such Regulations as the Minister may make.

Section 9 relates to updating references to Inland Fisheries Ireland and to current fisheries legislation.

Section 10 provides for clarification of the powers of authorised officers of the Department and An Garda Síochána under the Wildlife Acts.

Section 11 provides for the updating of penalties for offences under the Wildlife Acts and the introduction of fixed payment notices for certain offences.


Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020

The picture above is by Vincent Van Gogh (obviously says you), it lives in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam and is called ‘Wheatfield with Crows’.  It was painted in 1890 – possibly his last picture. Vincent didn’t know about climate change or intensive agriculture; if he had, he would probably have cut the other ear off and left the crows out.  Continue reading Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020

Pollination and Honey Bees

So, why are honey bees such important pollinators?

From an ecological point of view there are at least 3 reasons:

  • Honeybees have evolved in tandem with certain flowers and they have adapted to facilitate each other;
  • One bee is able to rapidly communicate the location of a pollen/nectar source to the whole hive and an army sets out;
  • The bees then concentrate faithfully on that flower species until the pollen runs out or the nectar dries up, at which point the job of pollination is accomplished.

These features obviously make the honey bee important from an agricultural/commercial point of view. In addition, hives of bees are mobile and can be moved from crop to crop – an arrangement which can suit bees, farmers and beekeepers so long as everyone has a bit of respect. Wouldn’t that be great?

But some detail: Continue reading Pollination and Honey Bees