Buzzing into Sustainability: Iarnród Éireann’s Beekeeping Initiative and How it has Inspired Our Journey to Tell a Story of Bees.

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Last month, we hosted the Transport Research Arena conference at the RDS in Dublin, welcoming over 4,000 delegates. As part of the conference, we organised an outdoor exhibition space, which included Iarnród Éireann. Iarnród Éireann, known in  as  Irish Rail, is the national railway operator of Ireland. At TRA, they showcased a fleet of equipment, train carriages, and a track cleaning vehicle, but what caught our eye were their beehives. Iarnród Éireann is a partner in a unique beekeeping programme, supporting hives in an off-site apiary and highlighting progress through replica hives in urban stations. Iarnród Éireann’s active hive currently houses 7,000 to 10,000 female worker bees and one queen bee. As the season changes and temperatures rise above 14°C, the beehive numbers will increase to 40,000-50,000 bees by late spring! This is one of many initiatives at Irish Rail, all of which can be found here.

As part of our own sustainability journey and to inspire our staff on their personal sustainability journeys, we have provided wildflower seed packets. Importantly, these seeds are sourced from native Irish wildflowers. Bees thrive on the native flora with which they have co-evolved. Research indicates that many commercially available wildflower seed mixes are often imported and not truly native, despite claims on the packaging. This poses a significant risk of introducing invasive species, such as Black Grass, which could have devastating effects on the Irish agricultural industry if they spread.

We also sat down with Jayne Ryan, CCE Ecologist at Iarnród Éireann, to learn more about Irish bees and how we can help them.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Bees

 

  1. Waggle Dance: Did you know that honey bees perform a ‘waggle dance’ inside the hive to communicate where a good flower patch is located? They convey both distance and direction in relation to the sun. The dancing bee also smells like the flower patch and shares the nectar’s taste, helping other bees find the location.
  2. Almond Pollination: California grows 1.5 million acres of almonds, requiring pollination every spring. With almond blossoms being a rich food source, it’s a natural symbiotic relationship. However, there aren’t enough local bees, so the state imported approximately 2.1 million beehives in 2021, amounting to around 42 billion bees.
  3. Bee Eyes: Incredibly, the honey bee has five eyes—two large compound eyes and three smaller ocelli eyes in the centre of its head.
  4. Colour Attraction: The most likely colours to attract bees are purple, violet, and blue. Bees see from approximately 300 to 650 nanometres (nm), meaning they can’t see red but can see in the ultraviolet spectrum.
  5. Honey Production: To produce one kilogram of honey, bees must collect nectar from approximately 4 million flowers, making multiple trips and visiting hundreds of flowers each outing. This highlights their incredible foraging abilities and crucial role in pollination.

5 Ways You Can Protect Bees

 

  1. Rescue Struggling Bees: A bumblebee with a full stomach is only ever 40 minutes away from starvation. If you find a struggling bumblebee, place it on a bee-friendly flower. If none are around, offer a 50/50 solution of white sugar and water on a teaspoon for an energy boost.
  2. Plant Diverse Flowers: Plant a range of flowers in your garden to provide nectar from March to October. Bees love traditional cottage garden flowers and native wildflowers like primrose, foxglove, and marigolds.
  3. Install Bee Hotels: Create habitats for solitary bees using wood blocks with drilled holes or bundles of hollow stems. Additionally, patches of bare soil or sand can support ground-nesting bees like mining bees.
  4. Provide Water: Set out shallow dishes of water with stones or floating corks, allowing bees to land safely and drink without drowning.
  5. Reduce Mowing: Not mowing your lawn allows wildflowers and native plants to grow, providing vital food sources. Clover, dandelions, and other flowering plants flourish, offering nectar and pollen. Taller grass and diverse vegetation also create better habitats for ground-nesting bees.

Would you like a native wildflower seed pack? Reach out today and we’d be happy to send you one!

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