A hive of activity at Norfolk university

Kate ScotterThe summer sound of the honey bee is under threat as its numbers decline - but one Norfolk man is determined to do his bit to keep the species alive and buzzing.Kate Scotter

The summer sound of the honey bee is under threat as its numbers decline - but one Norfolk man is determined to do his bit to keep the species alive and buzzing.

He has set up hives on the University of East Anglia campus in a bid to attract more young people to beekeeping.

Stewart Spinks, 47, of South Park Avenue, off Colman Road, wants to give people the chance to try beekeeping without having to establish and fully maintain their own beehives.

He has helped set up four hives on campus, and visits are being organised for anyone interested in seeing the bees over the summer months.

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Mr Spinks started beekeeping more than 22 years ago but only recently rekindled his love for the hobby after undertaking a science degree at the university.

The hives have been established as a part of the university's new beekeeping society, of which the father of two is president.

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It is hoped the society will build relationships with nearby schools and youth groups to try to encourage younger beekeepers to get involved.

Mr Spinks said: 'It's a really simple hobby to get involved in and you don't really need a huge amount of equipment, especially if you join a club.

'Every time you visit the beehive, you see something different - it's always fascinating and the supply of honey you get is a bonus.'

At the moment, there is a worrying decline in bees' population. Over the past 100 years, there has been a 75pc reduction in the number of bee colonies in the UK down from one million to 250,000.

It is believed to be a combination of pests, particularly the varroa mite diseases, pesticides and poor management which has led to the significant reduction in the worldwide bee population.

A number of campaigns have been set up in a bid to save bees including the British Beekeepers Association's 'Adopt a beehive' fundraising campaign and the Co-op's Plan Bee initiative.

At the height of pollination, a hive can be home to more than 50,000 bees. The honeybee is an important part of Britain's ecosystem and economy with its agricultural value - through pollination of crops - estimated at �200m per year.

There are currently around 30,000 beekeepers in the UK.

Anyone interested in becoming a beekeeper or interested schools should email Mr Spinks for more information at info@ueabks.com.

Read more on bees from Ian Gibson, vice-president of the Norfolk Beekeepers Association, on page 46.

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