Friday, 14 February 2020

Look out for the pollinators

An early flowering cherry promises good things to come
My early flowering cherry (Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’) has been delighting the eye with its shocking pink flowers since early February. Storms Ciara and Dennis have battered the side exposed to south west winds, but in the shelter it remains glorious. Every year I see it as a promise of all the good things to come as the days lengthen and grow warm, in the same way that the ancient Israelites saw the rainbow as a promise that rain and floods would never last for long.

This tree is a favourite early source of nectar and pollen for honeybees, and on mild days it buzzes with busy harvesters from the hive my friend and neighbour has placed in my garden. I hope it will give them a good start to the season, allowing the colony to thrive and yield a good honey crop later in the year.
A honeybee harvesting nectar & pollen
Pollinating insects are critically important to the health of our environment - not just bees, but also a legion of other species, including hoverflies, butterflies and moths. Pollinators, flowering plants and animals engage in a wonderful three-cornered dance in God’s creation. The insects pollinate the plants and are fed in return with nectar and pollen. The plants produce fruit and seeds which feed mammals and birds. Mammals and birds in turn eat and distribute the seeds, and in the case of humans plant orchards of fruit trees. The dance would stop without the pollinators.

So it is disturbing that there are indications of a large decline in the biomass and the number of insects in many parts of the world, including Ireland. People my age remember well the days when you could not drive more than a few miles without having to clean the splatted insects from the windscreen of the car, which is unnecessary now. This decline is probably one of the reasons why so many of our native bird species are also in decline.

If you want some ideas on what you can do about this, whether as an individual or as part of a parish eco group, do have a look at the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan website.

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