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A Bee or not a Bee?


 
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inishindie
Rank attained: Tree plantation keeper


Joined: 27 May 2007
Posts: 563
Location: inishowen Ireland

PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 8:42 am    Post subject: A Bee or not a Bee? Reply with quote

I've been outside painting the windowsills of the house bright yellow this week and splashed white emulsion on the wall around the front of the house. We also have walls either side of four very large steps leading up to the front door, which also needed painting white. As I was putting on the paint I couldn't help noticing that I had company. I was obviously disturbing what looked like honey bees and they were making their irritation known to me by flying around my head. It wasn't long before I found out that their nest was underneath the large concrete steps. Prior to painting I went around and sealed up any gaps in the wall and steps with a cement mix, unbeknown to me I sealed up the bees two entrances, and these I noticed had been neatly opened up again before the cement had time to dry. The steps and walls are all one piece of concrete and would take a mini digger to pull up so I can't see myself getting in there and moving the nest, so I need bit of advice.

Asking for help
My first place to ask for help was Facebook and had some mixed comments. One or two people said that I needed to kill them all as soon as possible or smoke them out, which I wouldn't want to do. Inishowen Home Baking said that they needed to have a nest professionally removed because the honey made a real mess and forced them to replaster some walls. They also mentioned that bees can be a bit annoyed when disturbed and advised keeping children away from the area. With bees being on the decline in Ireland I'll need to come up with a method of removal that won't kill the colony.

Foyle Bee Keeping Association

My next contact for help was Willie McMullan, one of the founder members of the Foyle Bee Keeping Association that was set up in 1999. The association has members stretching from Greencaste to Malin and Derry. Willie was extremely helpful and gave me a bit more insight into the habits of bees. When honey bee colonies get too large, they swarm and split up to form new nests, the original nest (such as mine) will still be in use. I had hoped that the bees would all just up and leave at the end of summer and move to a warmer climate, but that probably won't happen. Ordinarily Willie and other professional beekeepers would only be too happy to remove a nest, if they could get to it, which in my case they can't as it's encased in concrete. The Beekeepers get called out to a lot of false alarms so Willie asked me to send in a few pictures to study.

Conclusion
The following day Willie had his conclusion. They are not bees but one of the 180 hover fly species that pollinate flowers in Ireland; this has saved Willie and his team a wasted visit. I feel a bit safer walking up the stairs now and I'm sure the postie will be more at ease when pushing the mail though the letter box.
While I was waiting for Willie to deliver the good news I did a bit more research about bees and found the An Taisce (The National Trust for Ireland) site very informative.

Bees in Ireland(An Taisce)
Ireland has 101 species of bee - 14 are well-known social species including the honeybee and 13 bumblebee species. The remainder are lesser known solitary bees that do not form colonies but make individual nests.
Bees are not only a large component of biodiversity, but they also provide a valuable ecosystem service of pollination. The majority of our flowering plants require pollination to reproduce. As humans, we rely on pollination for 1/3 of all foods that we eat. In Ireland, crops such as apples, strawberries, clover and oilseed rape all benefit from pollination and the value of this service to the economy has been estimated at €53 million per year. The worldwide estimated economic value of pollination is € 153.000.000.000
30% of bees are currently threatened in Ireland, with this figure rising fast. Many butterfly and hoverfly species are also threatened. The main threats to pollinating species include habitat destruction, agricultural intensification, and a lack of food sources and nesting sites.

Here are some suggestions for attracting pollinators into the garden:
Tips for attracting bees and other pollinators

1. Avoid pesticide use
2. Use local native plants.
3. Chose a diverse range of colourful flowering species.
4. Choose species that will flower at differing times through the growing season.
5. Plant flowers in clumps, this will attract more pollinators
6. Choose flowers with differing shapes, again providing a range of flower shapes means more bees species can benefit.
7. Plant in the sunniest and most shaded areas.



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tippben
Rank attained: Vegetable garden tender


Joined: 15 Jan 2011
Posts: 897
Location: north tipperary

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to be on the safe(ish) side, If you really trust Willie, pick one up and give it a gentle squeeze. Wear a glove, and see if it has a sting. If it does, it's not a hoverfly...
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Fiántas
Rank attained: Hazel Tree
Rank attained: Hazel Tree


Joined: 24 Mar 2012
Posts: 6
Location: Cork

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm no expert but they look like masonry bees. Usually not a problem as they are solitary so you wouldn't get many of them in one spot. Definitely do not look like hoverflies to me!

I wouldn't recommend squeezing them - firstly the female has a sting which would hurt and also would kill her if she uses it. Not very nice for poor bee. Crying or Very sad
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kindredspirit
Rank attained: Chlorophyll for blood


Joined: 10 Nov 2008
Posts: 2028
Location: Mid-west.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's what I thought too, masonry bees, but I'm not an expert compared to a beekeeper.

http://www.dublinbeekeepingservices.com/solitary-bees.html

Masonry bees don't really bother you whereas honey bees can be nasty , short tempered little creatures.

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inishindie
Rank attained: Tree plantation keeper


Joined: 27 May 2007
Posts: 563
Location: inishowen Ireland

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm looking at images of masonry bees and solitary bees and there are similarities. My only reservation is that there are a LOT of them floating around when the sun shines. I am so tempted to start squeezing! I am thinking they are a variety of bee as opposed to hoverfly..
Here's a fact sheet, it's interesting to see that if they are these then our area doesn't appear on the map...maybe they are spreading!

http://www.bwars.com/Files%204%20downloading/Osmia_rufa_infosheet.pdf

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