As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column as published in the Waterford News & Star
I FIRST came to love bees when I learned about the connection between bees and wildflowers. Like a lot of children I was taught to fear bees and other pollinators, “Don’t touch that it will sting you!” was enough to get the message across. I had no idea what bees were even for.
People often confuse bees with wasps and are ultra paranoid doing a “kill the wasp dance” and hitting out at them with a rolled up News and Star. I should know as I once bit into a sticky bun, at the same time cut a wasp in two and was very badly stung on the lip. Never again! I looked like I had gone two rounds with Mike Tyson. But hey, wasps are pollinators so I give them a break whenever I meet one now.
We all see plants differently. Some people see wildflowers as simply weeds that get in the way of lawns. I’m an old fashioned romantic when it comes to wildflowers and I stop, enjoy and examine every flower I come across. Along the ditches when I’m out walking these days there are primroses, white stichwort, bluebells and herb robert growing happily without any attention. Each one will draw me down to look at it and marvel at its beauty.
‘I want them to see dandelions turn to seed so they can count one o’clock, two o’clock as they blow the fluffy seeds into the wind’
It was the wildflowers and how rare they have become that got me interested in what was going on with the bees. You see the bees need the flowers to collect food from which they can make honey and survive the winter until they breed the following year. And the flowers need the bees so that they can be pollinated and thrive and come back on the hedgerows year in and year out.
The same is true of blossoms on crops and trees. Right now all over the county you will find flowering blackthorn and hawthorn trees, willows bearing catkins, crab apple trees and gorse everywhere. Cross pollination of fruit trees depends on attracting bees and other pollinators to thrive so that we can ensure that fruit trees and other crops are abundant. So the more healthy bees there are the better for all of us.
The reason I am on about bees is that it’s World Bee Day this week. This was brought to my attention by a very special neighbour who has a fascination with bees for her own reasons. Trish is actually a third generation beekeeper, with a love of nature and the natural world. The mind boggles as to how anyone can beekeep for a job, but people like Trish tend bees as a labour of love and her main work in life is making sure her bees are happy.
There is so much bad news about the natural world, the environment and the hopelessness of the situation facing our planet that I am always thrilled to come across someone who has found a way to make something positive without harming our ecosystem.
Trish is also an award winning producer of organic skin care which she developed due to having allergic reactions to mainstream products. I managed to get her beeswax candles at Christmas time and don’t think I could ever go back to the smelly fake ones.
Think a bit about the bees for a moment, there is nothing to fear and everything to marvel at. Did you know that bees have five eyes and fly at 20mph; that bees have been here on Planet Earth for 30 million years, that an average beehive can hold up to 50,000 bees! No I didn’t either.
To make one jar of honey bees must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers. If you think about that, it is impossible to imagine in the landscape that we live in, almost completely devoid of flowers, that without supplementing their food no bee could possibly survive.
We need to think creatively about how to make businesses work in a more nature friendly way. SuperValu I know have supported many small Irish food producers and our Trish from Dunhill has also benefited with two new bee friendly products going on their shelves this week. There are so many ways we can all help but buying Irish bee friendly and organic products is a great start.
The news on climate and biodiversity is all very negative. Hearing about Trish and her bees for once cheered me up and I’m determined to look for hopeful signs of a better future. I want my kids and grandkids to know bees, butterflies and even wasps! I want them to have the joy of local honey on buttered toast. I definitely want them to enjoy country rambles and see dandelions turn to seed so they can count one o’clock, two o’clock as they blow the fluffy seeds into the wind.