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Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Friday, 14 May 2010 11:55 UK
A Fulwood couple's hobby is the bee's knees
Caroline McKenzie and Bill Patterson
Caroline McKenzie and Bill Patterson will be creating bee friendly spaces

The world shortage of bees could have disastrous effects for the human race, say beekeepers from Fulwood, with even bacon butties under threat!

Bill Patterson and Caroline McKenzie are backing the BBC's Bee Part Of It campaign aiming to raise awareness of the decline in bees.

The couple will be looking after a Lancashire hive at Rufford Old Hall, near Ormskirk, donated by the National Trust in support of the project.

"We need them to survive.

"We can't live without them and we have to act now to preserve them," warns Caroline.

'Stupid notion'

Caroline is buzzing to be involved with the Bee Part Of It project. As well as keeping Lancashire's hive sweet, they will be creating bee friendly spaces and offering beekeeping taster sessions, too.

"Hopefully the campaign will make people more aware of the part bees play in pollination and not take them for granted.

"We need them to pollinate all sorts of things; fruit and vegetables such as raspberries, strawberries, some nuts, soya and even oilseed rape for biofuel is pollinated mainly by honey bees."

She adds: "Pigs eat vegetables so if we lost bees we wouldn't have bacon butties."

The couple have been into bee breeding for five years after keen gardener Caroline got a "stupid notion" and wanted to learn more about the insects and take up a shared hobby with Bill so "dragged him along".

They went on a two day course at Ormskirk and Croston College - run by Martin Smith, now president of the British Beekeepers Association - and both became captivated with bees.

Caroline says: "They're fascinating; it's amazing to watch how they interact together and the way the whole hive works together on their common goal. They're so meticulous."

BEE FACTS
Bees play a vital role in the pollination of a vast range of flowering plant species with one third of all human food crops pollinated by bees
In the past two years the number of bees in the UK has fallen by 10-15%, due to starvation, extreme weather and disease
While humans can't help the weather, ways we can help the decline of bees by growing nectar rich flowers, stop using pesticides (possibly one of the biggest killers of insects worldwide) and by offering bee nesting tubes/boxes to attract and home wild solitary bees/bumblebees

The hobby didn't turn out to be as time consuming or as expensive as they thought.

"The people were so friendly plus the meetings were held in the pub which helped."

'Lots of stings'

After some hands on experience with bees and hives, and "lots of stings" along the way, two months later they got their own nucleus (small colony) and they have been busy beekeepers ever since.

They rarely get stung now. "At first you're nervous and clumsy around them but you soon learn because you're going into their home and moving the walls around.

"As you get more proficient, you understand what they want and need; space, warmth and fresh air."

Her motto is "If you treat them like pets, they will reward you with honey".

They now boast three colonies and have moved them from their own garden to Barton Grange at Brock which has "a great banquet of flowers just waiting for our bees".

They were soon invited to give talks to gardening clubs and garden centres and they now deliver their own beekeeping taster days at Alston Hall and will be running Introductory Beekeeping courses at Myerscough College.

The couple have missed having their bees in the garden - "It's extremely relaxing to watch them going about their business and listen to their soothing hum as well as watching new bees making their first flight" - so this summer they are planning to rear honeybee queens and have another colony in their garden.

It's not just Bill and Caroline who have missed Bill's Bees as they call them; their cat Pepe likes to sleep on the 34º roof of their hive!

Bill Patterson and Caroline McKenzie will be talking about Bee Part Of It on BBC Radio Lancashire. Listen out for them throughout the summer!





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