‘Let it Bee’ initiative creating a buzz on Corracreigh Group Water Scheme

Farmers turned beekeepers on Corracreigh Group Water Scheme (GWS) in Co. Roscommon are creating a buzz in the community as they spread the word on the danger of pesticides to their honey bees, the local drinking water source and to wider biodiversity.

The Let it Bee initiative started early this summer when the Rushes, the Kelly’s and Durr’s received honey from beehives and began learning how to become beekeepers.

Mind the bees

Local GWS manager, Thomas Rushe, is the driving force behind the project, which is all about raising local consciousness about the importance of environmental appreciation and protection.

As an organic farmer and manager of his local group water scheme, he knows the damage that pesticides are doing to local drinking water sources and to biodiversity generally.

“I’m very aware that water quality can be impacted by farming practices. Our water source is very vulnerable to pollution and it is something that we are watching for all of the time,” he said.

Bees are a very visible reminder that we need wildflowers in the landscape. This is a message that people can relate to. We hope that if the community can mind the bees, the water will also be looked after.

Pointing out that “the community is beginning to talk about the project”, he added that “there are already other farmers looking to join the initiative which, he hopes, will have a significant impact on water quality and on biodiversity”.

Apart from issues arising from pesticide use, he points out that “slurry spreading in wet conditions is one of the biggest dangers to the water source”.

Cattle and sheep farmer, Jude Walsh, is mentor to the beekeepers of Corracreigh. He draws a parallel between “honey bees that work together for the benefit of their hive, their community” and the people of Corracreigh who, he says, “need to work together for the benefit of their drinking water supply”.

He continued: “As farmers we have a love and a respect for the land. It sounds obvious, but we also like to produce food. I have introduced clover onto my land for the bees and it has benefits for my livestock and for water quality. It’s win, win, win!”

Emmet and Rory Durr with Thomas Rushe

Recognising that it’s not just the farming community that is using pesticide, the youngest beekeeper, Rory Durr, is keen to see householders pull back from spraying pesticides in their gardens. Domestic pesticide use is, therefore, a major focus of the Let it Bee initiative.

‘We all have our part to play’

Recently, the buzz has been heard in neighbouring Mid Roscommon GWS, with three farm families signing up.

Edward and Jennifer Payne and their son Ben from Hilltop Dairies were first to take the step, while the Kellys and Difficys have also installed hives on their farms. Thomas Rushe is convinced that it won’t stop there.

Edward Payne, Hilltop Dairies

“This project is really raising awareness. Keeping honey bees and creating habitat for our wild bees and butterflies has the potential to change attitudes to farming practices. You are less likely to spray dangerous chemicals when you understand the harm that they cause.”

In a bid to further enhance biodiversity-appreciation in the community, work is underway to construct 330 “bee hotels” to be distributed to every family on Corracreigh GWS; thereby, providing multiple nesting sites for wild bees and other pollinators.

As Rory Durr says: “We all have our part to play.”

Further information

For further information, please visit the source protection section at: www.nfgws.ie.