Killarney Bee Walks is located in a traditional farm 3 km from Killarney town. It comprises of twenty acres of farmland with a variety of bee loving hedgerows, e.g. Blackthorn, Gorse, Oak, Rowan, Sycamore, and Whitethorn.
The Bee Meadow comprises of 2.5 acres of flowers for pollinators along with wild flowers to attract bumblebees, butterflies and insects.
There is a pathway around the Bee Meadow with information posters to assist you identify the birds, butterflies and bumblebees.
Take a few minutes to relax in our visitor centre which is situated in the Bee Meadow and watch the butterflies and bees all around you. Experience the honey bees working in the observation hives in our visitor centre and get up close to the working busy honey bees.
Finally visit the honey house and enjoy the fresh tasty honey.
Come and enjoy the “Secret lives of Bees” and hear the honey story.
Bee Walks Did you Know?
There are 99 different bee species in Ireland in, including the honeybee (1 species) and bumblebees (21 species). The remaining species are solitary bees, meaning they do not form colonies. One third of our bee species are threatened with extinction from Ireland.
This is because we have drastically reduced the amount of food (flowers) and safe nesting sites in our landscapes. Most pollination in Ireland is carried out by bees. This is because bees feed their young exclusively on pollen so are entirely focussed on collecting it from flowers to bring back to their nests.
Hence their entire life-cycle is dependent on interactions with flowering plants. Of the 100 crops that provide 90% of the worlds food supply, 71 are pollinated by bees 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. And globally that’s 153 billion Euro!! This is called an “Ecosystem Service”.
The Honey Bee Story:
The honey bee colony is a super organism which is a self-organising entity. A single bee doesn’t display the whole range of behaviour of the species and it’s not able to survive without the colony. Bee colonies include a queen, drones and workers. Honey use and production have a long and varied history as an ancient activity. Several cave paintings in Cuevas de la Araña in Spain depict humans foraging for honey at least 8,000 years ago.
Honey bees produce honey as a food source which they store in the hives and consume during the long winter months when there are no flowers blooming and there is no nectar around. They produce much more honey than they can eat and humans harvest the excess.
Honeybees are not aggressive by nature, they are defensive.
The Queen honey bee is the largest bee in the colony and the only bee capable of laying fertilised eggs. A queen is capable of laying between 1,500 to 2,000 eggs per day. The Drones of the colonies are all males. They have no stingers and they do not collect pollen or food. Their main purpose is to mate with the queen.
The Workers are all females. There can be from 10,000 – 50,000 of these workers in one single colony.
The wax produced by the workers is shaped into the honeycomb cell where the eggs are then laid singly by the queen into each cell. Young worker bees clean the hive and feed the larvae. After this, they begin building comb cells. They progress to guard duty, foraging and scouting as they become older.
Nectar is collected in their honey sac while pollen is collected in their pollen baskets. The Waggle Dance is the bees way to communicate the distance and direction of the pollen and nectar source.
There are 20 different species of bumble bee in Ireland. Six of the bumblebee species are cleptoparasites or cuckoo species. Like the cuckoo bird, cuckoo bees lay their eggs in the nest of another bee species (their true bumblebee host) rather than bringing up their own offspring.
Bumblebees are large, hairy bees and are can be identified by the colour of their tail namely: white, red, ginger and blonde. Note: The tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) arrived in Britain in 2001 and hasn’t been spotted in Ireland yet.It is a very distinctive white tailed species with an all ginger thorax.
Most species of bumblebee live in colonies which consist of around 50 – 150 bees. Only females will have a pollen basket on their hind leg. Males don’t look after the young so don’t need to carry pollen back to the nest. Only female bumblebees can sting: to defend themselves and their colony, but unlike honeybees, they can sting more than once.
Bumblebees do not store food (honey) to survive the winter. The bumblebee colony will die off at the end of summer. The new queens will then find somewhere to hibernate during the winter, usually underground and emerge to find new nesting ground ready to start a new colony in spring.
95% of the worlds 20,000 species of bee are solitary rather than social bees. Ireland has 99 bee species, of which 77 are solitary bees.
Solitary bees exist as a male and a female. When a male and female solitary bee have mated and prepared a nest for their eggs, they die off leaving the eggs to overwinter, and the young to emerge and fend for themselves the following year.
Solitary bees look very different from bumblebees. They are much smaller and occur in a range of different shapes and colours. Some species are small and black like ants with wings, while others have black and yellow striped bodies like wasps.
Irish solitary species nest in various different ways. Leafcutter solitary bees cut circular pieces out of leaves with their teeth and carry them back to line their nests, often in hollowed out twigs or bamboo canes. Mining solitary bees make their nests by digging holes in the ground. One solitary species called Osmia aurulenta lives in sand dunes and will only nest in empty snail shells
Yellowjackets (Vespula vulgaris) are social, hairless insects that measure about 16 to 25 mm long. Their main body is banded, usually black and yellow.
They are known as scavengers because they feed on dead insects and animals. They also enjoy sweets such as soda and fruit, so can often be found at picnic areas waiting to steal a bite!
They often nest underground, sometimes in a deserted rodent hole.