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Plight of the bumblebee

Outdoor Living

SWEET NECTAR Nectaroscordum, or Sicilian honey garlic, is a bulbous perennial with gracefully drooping bell-shaped flowers that are loved by hungry bumblebees.

There’s still time for spring and summer bulb planting

Nature and rewilding
Pat Fahy

The October 31 deadline is looming. If you hear or think about Brexit for even a split second, then you’re definitely in need of a distraction, and might even be glad to hear there’s still time for spring and summer bulb planting in your garden before first frost.
It takes six weeks for bulb roots to establish so they can see themselves through the winter. This is especially important for pollinator planting – the species that provide nectar and pollen. Some like the crocus are on every list I could find, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s convinced of their value to bumblebees, endangered and starving, not only when the queen comes out of hibernation in spring, but virtually every day of their existence.
But we do need to help the queen at this critical time. We need her to be able go on to make a nest for hundreds of workers and many new queens so that their story will continue, and most importantly, ours too. When you consider that wild pollinators do the vast majority of the work needed to keep us in fruit and vegetables thanks to their pollinating services, we just cannot live without them.
Much better options at providing essential forage for our flying squad of furry friends are the  Grape hyacinths (Muscari) and Alliums. Then, if the queen has survived into May, usually depending on the amount of Goat Willow (Sallies) and dandelion in her area, maybe she’ll visit the beautiful Nectaroscardum (Honey Garlic) with its clusters of gracefully drooping bell-shaped blossoms. These are all wonderful additions to any garden, paying their keep while they’re at it.
Right now is a worrying time for our bumblebees. One third of our native species are threatened with extinction, with numbers down 14.75 percent in the first six years of recording. We had really hoped for some good news from 2018, but with the extremes of weather that we saw last year, their numbers went down by a worrying 24.9 percent – the worst year since recording began. They really do need our help.
In springtime, we all love a show of bulbs, a sea of snowdrops or a bluebell wood when we’re out and about. In your garden it’s hard to beat the cheery signs of spring and the lovely daffodils. Sadly, they don’t provide nectar like their wild cousins, but I was mightily glad to see Wendy Stringer use them to good effect to provide all important cover for the insects in her Westport garden, Gort na Gréine. Garden flowers providing a useful service in this time of need.
The wealth of biodiversity in Wendy’s garden has to be seen to be believed. Moths and butterflies which seem to bypass nearly everywhere else won’t miss the opportunity to pay her a visit.
Daffs are also known by other names, such as Daffadowndilly and Narcissus. Their habit of pointing slightly downwards on their stems, as though they are looking at something, prompted the Greek legend of Narcissus. He pined away looking at his reflection in the water, gazing endlessly at his own image, eventually melting away at the burning love for himself and turning into a gold and white flower.
Where to plant? Traditionally, you throw the bulbs over your shoulder and plant them where they fall. Sounds like the Tory Brexit strategy! And so, in the end, all these ponderings on Daffodils has brought me back to Brexit. (Blonde-on-blonde yellow petals with a prominent corona trumpet, as Boris’s psychoanalyst might say.)
Not since ‘Who shot JR?’ have I been so gripped on a daily basis. Like the Narcissus of Greek legend, will those dafóg Daffadowndillys, the Brexiteers, still be looking at their own reflection next springtime?

Pat Fahy is Biodiversity Officer with Westport Tidy Towns.