Bees are essential because they are very important pollinators of
plants. They help pollinate both crops and native plants, making
them of huge economic and ecological importance to Ireland.
Bees vary in their social organization. Bumblebees and honeybees
are highly social insects. They live in colonies consisting of a queen,
many female workers and some males. Other bees live alone
instead of in a colony and are called solitary bees, though a few also
live in rather simple societies. Only 3% of the 20,000 bee species
worldwide are social, colony forming bees.
There are 101 bee species in Ireland. Nineteen of these species are
bumblebees, and more than half of these bumblebee species are
Ireland has one native honeybee species.
The honeybee is the type of bee that most people are familiar
with. There are estimated to be 3000 beekeepers in the Republic of
Ireland and 700 in Northern Ireland who keep hives of honeybees
and produce honey. That adds up to a lot of bees, making the
honeybee a very important
pollinator of crops and flowers.
Honeybees lived in Ireland long before beekeepers started building
hives and keeping them for honey. In the wild they make their nests
in hollow trees and don’t have to share their honey with anyone!
Unlike the honeybee, solitary bees and bumblebees produce very
little or no honey.
It is very difficult to assess the conservation status of Ireland’s native
honeybee because beekeepers import bees from outside Ireland
and these have mixed with the native species
Fitzpatrick, U., T.E. Murray, R.J. Paxton & M.J.F. Brown (2006)