THERE is a real buzz about Pennywell Youth Project – their bee hives have been declared the best in the region.
The Government’s North of England bee inspector made the claim when visiting the charity’s hives, which contain more than 100,000 bees.
The success comes as pressure group Friends of the Earth launches its campaign to lobby the Government to protect the North East’s bee population,
Numbers have dropped dramatically, which the group believes could lead to a rise in food prices.
Bumble bees are extinct in the area, and honey bees numbers fell by 17 per cent last winter, according to the British Beekeepers Association.
Should bees become extinct here, the region’s farming industry and Wearside’s consumers would suffer.
Friends of the Earth estimates bees pollinate £8.5million-worth of crops.
For farmers to manually pollinate them would cost £1.8billion each year.
Simon Bowens, Friends of the Earth’s North East regional campaigner, said: “Unless we halt the decline in British bees, farmers in our region will have to rely on hand-pollination, sending food prices rocketing.
“Bees are responsible for most of our favourite fruit and vegetables, so as well as the huge blow to our economy, our diet would also suffer.”
Linda Cross helps maintain the bee hives in Pennywell and believes people do not appreciate just how important they are.
“Bees will only sting you when they’re aggravated,” she said.
“If you go about your business as normal, they’ll come up and smell you, but that’s it.
“People need to distinguish between bees and wasps, and just realise the good the bees are doing.”
Linda was trained to look after the hives by Mike Hood, who quotes Einstein’s theory that without pollinating insects, the human race would not last four years.
She believes the situation would improve if more people cared for bees.
“You can get training to get a hive and people will be only too happy to mentor you.
“It’s not impossible to do. You just need training.”
Ian Wallace, bee inspector from The Food and Environment Research Agency, said: “The projects two colonies are the strongest I have seen this season. They are in a good environment and are being taken care of enthusiastically by the project members.”
The Echo has reported recent incidents of vandalism and tampering with the hives, something that makes Linda and the rest of the staff at the centre even more proud of their achievements.
“For all the trouble we’ve had, we’ve still got the best bees,” she added.