Lough Carra GWS teams up with Mayo Men’s Sheds to create bee hotels for all its members

Castlebar Men's Shed members

In advance of World Water Day, 22nd March, Lough Carra Group Water Scheme (GWS) has teamed up with a number of Irish Men’s Sheds Association groups across Mayo for a ‘bee hotel’ initiative that raises awareness about the links between water quality and biodiversity.

Castlebar, Charlestown, Crossmolina, Kiltimagh, Louisburgh, and Westport Men’s Sheds have made 600 bee hotels that are being distributed to members of Lough Carra GWS as part of a major, government-funded drinking water source protection project.

The project is managed by the National Federation of Group Water Schemes (NFGWS) and involves the creation of integrated source protection plans for 14 group water schemes and the implementation of actions to protect water quality with a number of GWS source catchments. It is being funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Housing; and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Bee hotels provide habitat for a variety of wild bee species, many of which are in decline around Ireland. The initiative also serves as means of raising awareness among Lough Carra GWS members about the dangers that pesticides, such as weed killer, can pose to water quality and bees, as well as other pollinators.

Lough Carra GWS chairperson, Tom McGill explains:

Many people are not aware that one drop of these pesticide chemicals lost to a drain (one metre wide and one metre deep) can be detected over 30km away. Pesticides are very difficult to remove in water treatment plants and they can be harmful to the environment in a number of ways. In a wider context, one third of Ireland’s 98 wild bee species are now threatened with extinction.

We wanted to explore the biodiversity and water quality relationship by providing every family on the group water scheme with a wild bee hotel. We felt that if householders took measures to protect bees and their habitat, this could also help protect water quality in the GWS drinking source.

Initially Seamus Swift, East Mayo volunteer on the National Board of the Irish Men’s Shed and chairman of the Kiltimagh branch, was approached about the prospect of making bee hotels for Lough Carra GWS members. He quickly enlisted the help other Sheds around the county. Seamus said:

Men’s Sheds were set up as a safe environment for men to come together socially in their spare time. They are places where men can come to have a cup of tea and a chat. If they want to, they can do a bit of work in the workshop as well. They are places where men can talk and listen and have a laugh. We work on projects such as the bee hotel initiative — anything with a community focus. Along with the other Sheds, we were only too happy to help.

Charlestown Men’s Shed was also among those involved. Its chairperson, Kevin Higgins, said:

‘The more we learnt about the cause, the prouder we were to be part of it. We hope that the people of Lough Carra enjoy these hotels and that they’re a catalyst for the community to work together to protect bees and protect their water source.’

Fellow Mayo group water schemes, Killaturley GWS and PBKS GWS, are also among the GWSs taking part in the NFGWS integrated source protection planning project. For more information on the project, visit the NFGWS website here.