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The Pollinator population:
bolster your bees and butterflies

With a plethora of scientific studies confirming the fact that populations of wild bees, butterflies and other insects are in dramatic decline, many gardeners are wondering what simple steps we can take to make our own little patch of paradise more pollinator-friendly, Here are some handy tips to get you started.

Garden a little on the wild side

For example, by allowing a patch of nettles to colonise a small corner, you're providing food for the larvae (caterpillars) of once-common butterflies such as the small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Pea- cock and Comma, all of which lay their eggs on its leaves. By allowing even a narrow ribbon of lawn to grow uncut, you're helping the Speckled Wood, Wall Brown, Grayling, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Small Heath butterflies, which depend upon various native grasses as a source of food for their larvae.
Long grass also provides the perfect habitat for wild bumblebee nests, while many of the common wild flowers happy to grow in it, such as dandelions, clover, celandines, buttercup and primroses, are also valuable sources of food for pollinating insects. Alternatively, consider mowing your lawn less often, or transforming sections of it into a wildflower-rich meadow by sowing seeds of yellow rattle into it in early autumn. This wonderful little wild flower naturally robs fertility from over-vigorous species of grasses, allowing lots of daintier, pollinator-friendly wild grasses and flowers to thrive in their place.

Grow plants for all seasons

While summer is time of abundance, resident pollinating insects need a steady supply of nectar and pollen from the moment they wake up from their winter hibernation in early spring and take wing in search of food. Autumn-flowering plants are equally important, coming at a time when many are preparing once again for hibernation. So by growing a few spring-flowering garden plants such as hellebores, lungwort (Pulmonaria), honesty (Lunaria) and flowering currant (Ribes), and some autumn-flowering species such as dahlias, sedum, Michaelmas daisies and joe pye weed (Eupatorium), you'll be giving them a helping hand. Meanwhile, by growing a few pots of snowdrops and crocuses, or allowing wild ivy to colonise a small patch of your garden, you're providing food in the lean months of late winter and early spring, when rogue warm days make honeybees take flight and tempt bumblebees out of hibernation.

Try to avoid using chemicals

Especially avoid those containing what are known as neonicotinoids or neonics, a common ingredient in many over-the- counter insecticidal sprays as well as in some pre-treated seed. Similarly, avoid using weed killers and fungicidal sprays. None of these are good for pollinating insects or indeed, for humans.

Choose single flowered plants

If you're new to gardening, these terms can sound a little bamboozling, but don't panic. They're just ways of distinguishing between flowers with relatively few petals (single-flowered) and those with lots and lots of them (double-flowered). The latter aren't much use to pollinating insects as their profusion of petals makes it very difficult to access the flowers carbohydrate-rich nectar and protein-rich pollen, which they rely on for food.
Examples of "open-faced" or single-flowered garden plants include many species-type roses, both the species-type and Bishop-series of Dahlias, and many varieties of cosmos.

Grow some native trees

It can be easy to forget that the nectar and pollen of the flowers of many common garden trees are abundant sources of food for pollinating insects, especially those that bloom in late, winter or spring.
Examples include the native hawthorn, hazel, alder, rowan, crab apple, willow, horse chestnut, ornamental cherry and most fruit trees. The flowers of many common garden shrubs such as berberis, forsythia, potentilla, lavender, rosemary, mahonia, viburnum and cotoneaster are also excellent sources of food.


Plant a butterfly bush

The large, nectar-rich flower spikes of Buddleia, this hardy, deciduous shrub appear in late summer and are so attractive to butterflies that it's not unusual to count dozens of them feeding from a single plant. Depending on the particular variety, those decorative flower spikes can be dark purple ('Black Knight'), pink ('Pink Delight'), white ('White Profusion'), purple-red ('Royal Red'), or even multicoloured (B x weyeriana 'Bicolor'), but bear in mind that butterflies are naturally drawn to flowers in shades of orange, purple and dark pink.
Although typically a large, slightly sprawling shrub, new ultra-compact forms such as the Podaras series are perfectly suited to container growing.

Provide different habitats

For example, some of our native species of wild bee like to overwinter in the hollow canes of raspberries or the dead flowering stems of perennials. Others prefer sunny, raised banks, or rotting tree stumps, or the bases of hedgerows, or the cavities of stone walls.
Likewise, hibernating butterflies need a sheltered spot in winter - perhaps an old outbuilding, a hollow tree stump or even the eaves of a roof. Habitat loss in the wild is one of the greatest causes of pollinator decline, so the greater the variety you can provide in your garden, the better.

For more useful tips, check out the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan at www.biodiversityireland.ie

The above article on Pollinators is reproduced with kind permission of the author Fionnuala Fallon and was published in the Irish Times on Saturday 18th March 2017.


Pollinator Friendly Plants

There are 10 suggestions on this leaflet (left) as to planting Pollinator Friendly Plants

To view or download the leaflet please click or tap here or on the image





Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) Sceach Gheal

The Hawthorn, by its Latin name Crataegus monogyna, is also known as Quickthorn, Whitethorn, the May tree or by its Gaelic name Sceach Gheal. It is one of the most common small trees/large shrubs grown in Ireland. It is sometimes grown as individual trees, but it is more common to see it grown in a
closely planted row as a hedge or screen. It is the ideal candidate for this, as young hawthorn plants grow strongly with many thorny branches and side-shoots. This quickly forms a thicket, which makes for a virtually stock-proof hedge.

For detailed information on Hawthorn please click on the image