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Page last updated at 14:55 GMT, Sunday, 16 May 2010 15:55 UK
Hampshire's Bee Part of It beehive at Mottisfont Abbey
Bee hive
Andrew Cutler-Davies is preparing the hive ready for the bees

The National Trust's property at Mottisfont Abbey near Romsey has taken delivery of the BBC Radio Solent beehive - part of the BBC's Bee Part of It campaign.

With the bees scheduled to be delivered at the end of May, local bee-keeper Andrew Cutler-Davies has had a chance to position and assemble the red cedar wood hive in the estate grounds.

The Mottisfont estate includes a world-famous walled rose garden (home to National Collection of old-fashioned roses) as well as vegetable plots and fruit trees.

Such a habitat should be perfect for a colony of bees. Andrew said: "There is a nearby field of oil seed rape which they love. There is lavender and fruit trees - they will definitely go for those - it'll be interesting to see what they prefer."

Beekeeping skills

Andrew took up bee-keeping three years ago. He said: "Its a rapid learning curve, really interesting - watching what they are doing as one colony is fascinating

Hive interior
The hive will initially be home to around 10,000 bees

"The climate is changing so the hobby has to adapt to help the bees and that means bee disease management. There is a lot to learn but it's a very rewarding hobby. You get the honey and wax candles, I enjoy it."

However a combination of the cold winter and fungal infections meant Andrew has lost some of his own bees over the past year.

He explained: "When they can't leave the hive to get water to dilute stores of crystalised honey, they starve. When they are cooped up in a box there is also the risk of fungal spores spreading."

Bee camera

To allow visitors and website users the chance to see what is happening in the new colony, two cameras will constantly monitor the hive.

An exterior camera will film bees coming and going, and reacting with each other at the entrance. Meanwhile an infra-red camera deep inside the hive will capture all the activity of the bees.

Natural history cameraman Kevin Babey explained: "The really exciting stuff is happening inside. There is no natural light in the hive so we use an infra-red camera as the bees can't see red, they see in ultra-violet. "

Cameras
An infra-red camera will record the activity in the hive

There will also be a microphone attached to the camera. Kevin said: "Scientists believe bees actually communicate using sound, so we'll capture all the different tones - like the collective flapping of wings to regulate the temperature of the hive.

"We shouldn't miss anything - anything could happen, we just don't know. We could have a fantastic hive with lots of honey, but we may have struggles, trials and tribulations."

Andrew Cutler-Davies is also looking forward to the prospect of the camera in the hive. He said: "It's a brilliant idea to make people more aware and see what goes on inside the hive - most beekeepers don't get see what really goes on inside - I'm really excited about it."

Global concern

Bees and pollinating insects are worth about £200m a year to British agriculture and their declining numbers here and around the world is causing global concern.

A combination of factors are believed to be responsible including a loss of wildflower habitats and the diversity of plants within them, the use of pesticides and disease - but recent poor summers have also caused enormous damage to honeybees, with a third of colonies lost in 2008.

Highlighting the plight of the honeybee is a high priority for estate staff at Mottisfont.

Dylan Everett, community engagement officer explained: "They are absolutely essential to sustainable farming. A lot of the fruit you eat and the plants around you are intrinsically linked to the bee and other pollinating insects so they are really essentially to the well being of the whole estate."





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