THE welcome note to the website reads: “We are a small association of people who enjoy bees and beekeeping (and honey)”. Westport men and women most certainly enjoy all three if the success of a novel organisation is anything to go by.
The Westport Beekeepers Association (WBKA) has experienced exponential growth since its foundation less than two years ago. From an initial 20 members the group has now expanded to more than 100 members.
Speaking to The Mayo News WBKA treasurer Dermot O’Flaherty said the new interest in beekeeping is due to a public awakening of the demise of the honeybee and its importance to our survival. He added, “It has grown out of all proportion. The amount of interested people is unbelievable. We have a waiting list of more than 40 people who want to join ”.
Ireland has recently witnessed a resurgence of interest in the age old craft of beekeeping. This interest has translated into a phenomenal growth in both the number of beekeepers and the number of beekeeping associations throughout the country.
O’Flaherty said there are obvious reasons for this renewal. “We are trying to save the honeybee. The native wild feral honeybee is no more. Any bees that are around now are being introduced by groups such as ours. They are the most important pollinators on the Earth so it is vital that they are saved.”
A new apiary, which will be officially opened on September 17 by Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring, will allow members to keep their hives and their bees in one place. O’Flaherty said, “This is where we will have all our demonstrations and cater for beginners as well as enabling all of our members to do their exams”.
President of Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations Seamus Reddy will also be in attendance along with the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann Senator Paddy Burke, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Austin Fraincis O’ Malley, Cathaoirleach of Castlebar Town Coucil, Cllr Eugene McCormack and Cathaoirleach of Westport Town Council, Cllr Christy Hyland.
Mr John Campbell, South Mall, Westport recently became the 100th member of the WBKA association. O’Flaherty presented John with five frames containing bees, brood, stores and a young laying queen on behalf of the club.
Mr Ger Coyne, Chairperson of the Connemara Beekepers Association marked the occasion by presenting John with some sections of his honey. John is no stranger to beekeeping. His late father Dr Campbell kept bees at his residence on the Distillery Road.