Our First Skerries Wild Bee Festival

Our first ever Skerries Wild Bee Festival was a great success, partly down to all the hard work people put in and partly down to luck.

Noeleen Smythe explaining the make-up of a plant

It all began early this year when Una FitzPatrick of the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) proposed holding the event here. We owe her a debt of gratitude. Fingal CC came on board and between the two organizations the weekend was planned. Our own Fingal biodiversity officer, Debbie Tiernan, did most of the organizing for their end and must also be singled out for praise.

Perhaps not everyone who attended would have realised that some of the leading Irish experts in their various fields were there. Una, apart from being lead scientist at NBDC, heads up the All Ireland Pollinator Plan; Michelle Larkin, also NBDC, is their pollinating insect expert; Maria Long (NPWS) is Ireland’s leading grassland expert; Noeleen Smythe is an internationally renowned Irish botanist.

We, Sustainable Skerries, could never have hoped to assemble such an illustrious line-up.

Visitors came from far and wide. Apart from the expected East Coast attendees there were people from Kildare, a lady from Mayo, four guys made the trip down from Donegal, and another woman travelled up from Dingle. We were able not just to talk with local people but also network and establish connections nationwide.

We can also give ourselves a pat on the back. Sustainable Skerries had an information stall where we handed out literature, bumblebee swatch cards and the like as well as getting people to sign up and pledge their gardens for biodiversity. Right beside it bumblebee and butterfly face painting was happening which kept the kids entertained, and the whole thing became a focal point where people gathered to chat.

So that’s the hard work side of things covered, what about the luck? Well, first off, the weather held. Everyone had been dreading a typical Irish washout weekend and if it lashed down what would we do? We needn’t have worried, Sunday saw a little very light drizzle from time to time but Saturday was gorgeous. This meant that certain uninvited guests showed up.

The event had been widely publicized but it never occurred to anyone to invite the real stars
of the show: the bees themselves. They came anyway.

And not just any old bees. The primary focus of the weekend was the endangered Large Carder Bee, seen in a few locations around Skerries but never, until now, at Skerries Mills. It spread to here this summer, long after the venue was picked, and was ready and waiting for its admirers on the day.

Our stall was out in the garden, surrounded on three sides by bees buzzing around on the late season flowers, which couldn’t in itself have been more fitting; but what are the chances of being able to say to visitors, “Rare bumblebee? Certainly Sir/Madam, there’s one right beside you and another over there.”
That’s luck!

This is how Mark Broderick, Fingal County Council videographer, saw it. We don’t disagree!

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