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Page last updated at 08:54 GMT, Monday, 17 May 2010 09:54 UK
Heaton residents asked to help save bees
Hannah with Chris Jackson
Chris Jackson has lived in Heaton for about 20 years

Residents of Heaton in Newcastle have been doing their bit for bees.

Friends of the Iris Brickfield, near Rothbury Terrace, have planted a bee- and butterfly-friendly meadow in the park with the help of volunteers.

Britain's honeybees have been disappearing for several years and figures suggest the situation is worse in the north of England than elsewhere.

According to the British Beekeepers' Association (BBKA), 32% of honeybees died in the north during winter 2008-9.

That's more than 10% above the national average for the period.

Arrest decline

A combination of factors is believed to be responsible for bees' decline, including a loss of wildflower habitats and reduced plant diversity.

In January 2010, French researchers pointed to a link between the variety of bee diets and the strengths of their immune systems.

Volunteers at Iris Brickfield
More than 200 volunteers turned up to help with the planting

The Friends of Iris Brickfield hope that by creating a new wildflower meadow they will help arrest the decline of the insects locally.

More than 200 volunteers joined them at the park on Saturday 15 May 2010 from 10am to noon to help with the planting.

Chris Jackson is a member of the group.

"Of course it's nice just to see the bees and butterflies but we also need them," she said.

"Bees pollinate fruit and vegetable plants and so without them we wouldn't have the food supply we need."

She added: "We've got quite a wide variety of tough plants that will attract butterflies and bees, like scabious, hawksweed, and cowslips."

City initiative

The Friends also filled several big planters with herbs that people using the park will be able to pick and take home to use in their cooking.

The event fits in with a wider initiative at Newcastle City Council to help protect bee populations.

Area of Iris Brickfield
The park features a variety of wildlife habitats, from an orchard to a pond

Helen Raper, recreational development officer for parks and countryside, said the council had set up a steering group:

"We're looking at how we can manage our parks better [to help bees], how we can support people who are keeping bees already and how we can encourage people who want to keep them.

"It's not an easy hobby to start and you need lots of people who can show you, through practice, how to do it."

Back in Heaton, one idea for the future is to put a hive in the council's Rothbury Terrace depot, which is next to Iris Brickfield.

"There's real interested in putting one there," Helen said.

"We just need to make sure it's done in the right way so that people receive the right training and can look after it."



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