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Let it Bee Project- A community approach to tackling pesticide issues in Newport

In order to pollinate crops and wild plants we need an abundance and diversity of wild pollinators and honeybees. Looking for a solution to the many pesticide exceedances in the Newport river catchment, the “Let It Bee” project begins. Mary Roache, Teagasc ASSAP Advisor, Westport has details

(Photo above: Sean Corrigan NFGWS with bee hives - photo credit: JohnMee)

There are 98 different species of bees in Ireland. We have one honeybee, 20 different bumblebees and 77 different solitary bees. Research tells us that if we want our crops and wild plants to be pollinated we need an abundance and diversity of wild pollinators as well as healthy honeybees.

Pollinator friendly actions

Many pollinator friendly actions simply require us to manage the land in a different way than we have become used to so that pollinators can survive and continue to provide us with their vital services. It is not necessary or indeed sustainable to be constantly applying sprays and they should not be looked on as the main method to control weeds. In grassland, good soil fertility, good grazing management and use of manual control such as topping should always be carried out. The presence of rushes in a field do not make the field ineligible for payment once it is being grazed. Indeed the next round of CAP and environmental schemes will look more favourably on the amount of biodiversity present on farm. Environmental results based payment schemes will pay for what is present and the quality of habitats on farms. Habitats will be assessed each year and scored in order to decide individual farm payments in these schemes. So those bio-diverse field corners and field margins as well as margins along hedgerows, drains and rivers which are left unsprayed along with other habitat areas will finally be recognised for their contribution to water quality and the overall environment.

Newport project

With this in mind and looking for a solution to the many pesticide exceedances in the Newport river catchment a project is being sponsored by The National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS), Irish Water, Lawpro, and Mayo County Council. The “Let It Bee” project has already started in Roscommon and currently has 21 trainee bee keepers who are helping to create an awareness on the damage that pesticides can do to their local water sources and biodiversity. The project will now begin in Newport, Co. Mayo. Helping communities with the project, and advice to protect their waters is Sean Corrigan (NFGWS). While acting as a mentor, using his knowledge of farming and bee keeping, is Jude Walsh who also farms in the Newport catchment and Mary Roache (Teagasc) who is already working with farmers to improve water quality.

There are two elements to the source protection project in Newport.

  1. "I’ve planted a tree and my garden is pesticide free" will be giving a native Irish woodland tree to the national school children in the catchment, and information on pesticides.
  2. In an effort to raise awareness of the dangers that pesticides can do to our drinking water and biodiversity, six bee hives, training, mentoring, and equipment will be given to families or community groups across the Newport Catchment (The Let it Bee project). In the first year they will be located in one Apiary, this is to help our bee keepers learn how to handle them.

In return we are asking you to let us know how you will let your neighbours and community know about the dangers of pesticides, and how you will help to promote biodiversity and water awareness. We don’t need a lot of information just a short email, and we will contact you.  You do need to live in the Newport Catchment. Contact protectourwater@nfgws.ie with your ideas.

Mary Roache, Teagasc, Peter Comer Teagasc and Sean Corrigan (NFGWS) were speakers at the first of the Teagasc Mayo Spring Webinar Series on Wednesday 17th February last. The webinar recording will be available soon for viewing. More on the Teagasc Mayo webinars here http://bit.ly/MAYOwebinars21