Bees and pollinators have been declining in Ireland and other countries for decades – as a result of mono-culture, pollution, climate change and disease, and this decline comes at a huge cost to agriculture, to wildflowers and trees, and to many parts of the natural world that we take for granted. The All Ireland Pollinator Plan (AIPP), set up in 2015, is almost unique in reversing pollinator decline by engaging with Irish society, mobilising a citizen’s army of gardeners, farmers, community and sports groups, councils and other land owners to become pollinator friendly, protecting the environment and protecting the lives of future generations.
In ‘Plean Bee’, Dr. Úna Fitzpatrick from the National Biodiversity Centre, Professor Jane Stout from TCD, and Belfast based biologist Dr. Pól Mac Cána explain the variety of pollinators who work on our behalf, the honeybees, the bumblebees as well as Ireland’s 77 species of solitary bee – individual bees of surprising sizes and colours who are the country’s main pollinators. While bees are responsible for most pollination, there are also wasps, moths, butterflies and hoverflies to take into account.
We hear how these pollinators face the same problem of decline in habitats and food sources. Gardens, parks, hedgerows and farmland that are over maintained, or are treated with pesticides, are destroying natural habitats for pollinators who require shelter, and a variety of food sources throughout the year. The delicate balance of nature – the pollination of fruits and crops, trees and wildflowers, in exchange for food and shelter – is breaking down, and pollinators are struggling to survive.
The aim of the AIPP, launched by Úna and Jane in 2015, was to encourage as much of Irish society as possible to take action to protect or develop habitats and food sources. The AIPP published action plans for every type of citizen activist, and in ‘Plean Bee’, we witness how Derry City and Strabane Council have reduced the mowing of grass over the summer, to allow wildflowers to grow to support pollinators. We visit a community glasshouse in Donegal, a school in Dublin that has implemented pollinator-friendly policies, a Mullingar farm where traditional hedge-laying helps promote biodiversity, and finally, we visit Buncrana Town, where the local council, the Tidy Towns committee and others have transformed how the town plants flowers and maintains its roundabouts and parkland to the advantage of bees and pollinators.
The success of the pollinator plan, and the huge community buy-in involved means that other countries, and the EU in particular, are looking to Ireland for help in improving the situation of their own pollinators. The AIPP is making a difference, and as Úna states, “the beauty about it is that we’re not asking ‘anybody’ to solve this problem, we’re asking ‘everybody’ to get involved, and if everybody took small actions, then together we would solve it.”