What Bees Wish For

It’s lovely to tune into spring these days, and the changes that are happening around us!

I’m drawn to the emerging colours, and this sudden yellowing of Galway city, thanks to all the yellow flowers. I love the bold, acid yellow colour that’s coming from daffodils in parks and people’s gardens.

There’s another yellow flower that I’m happy to see, but unlike daffodils or any of the “pretty” traditional garden plants, this other yellow flower doesn’t usually get a warm welcome from us: dandelions.

Dandelions get their name from the French “dent-de-lion”, meaning tooth of the lion, which refers to the toothed edges of their leaves. They are one of the most useful wild flowers for people and wildlife. For example, they have high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, their roots and leaves are used to make herbal tea, and they can attract butterflies and bullfinches.

I suppose, my own interest in dandelions evolved through my love of bees, and their beautiful, interdependent relationships with flowers. As most of my projects relate to bees, I promised myself that I wouldn’t bring them into my first AÁE piece, and that I would explore something different. My excuse is that I recently saw a queen bumblebee for the first time this year; she made me do it!

Spring is the start of the bee season. It’s when queen bees wake up after months of hibernation, and in order to replenish their body fats, the queens must find food; nectar and pollen in suitable flowers. However, this can be a hard time for queen bees as there aren’t many suitable plants in flower, which brings me back to the dandelion.

The dandelion is in flower, and it’s one of the best plants for bees this month, as well as April and May.

For bees, and for the other insects and wildlife that dandelions nourish and support, I would love to see the people of Galway let dandelions into their hearts.

The small act of allowing more dandelions to grow naturally in our gardens and community spaces (and even just a tiny patch!), is something we all can do, to provide food for our wildlife. It’s the sum of our individual actions, so, lots of tiny patches of dandelions, that will help make a difference.

And of course, the dandelions are only for March, April, and May – bees need an abundance and diversity of suitable flowers for summer and autumn as well.

Of Ireland’s 98 bee species, one-third of them are endangered, and this fills me with a great deal of sadness.

There are major issues which are contributing to the decline of Ireland’s bees. Right now, I just wanted to mention food, and that we need to provide quality spring flowers for them.

But you can be sure, there’ll be more information on bees and pollination from me….

All images courtesy of Jeanne Sampier