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Sting in the tail

PUBLISHED: 16:38 09 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:14 12 August 2010

BEE-N KEEPING BUSY: Clive Watson with his hives

BEE-N KEEPING BUSY: Clive Watson with his hives

IF the bees die, we die. This is the simple yet stark warning from beekeepers who say unless we look after the insects we are all doomed. Clive Watson, 65, from Beckenham, chair of the Kent Beekeeping Association, says it is vital that the government be

IF the bees die, we die. This is the simple yet stark warning from beekeepers who say unless we look after the insects we are all doomed.

Clive Watson, 65, from Beckenham, chair of the Kent Beekeeping Association, says it is vital that the government begins taking the problem of perishing bees seriously.

Over the past few years, almost a third of honeybee colonies have died out, leading scientists to coin the phrase 'colony collapse disorder'. The insects are dying from diseases carried by mites, but the exact causes of these viruses are still largely unknown.

Bees are responsible for the pollination of the majority of plants and, therefore, the food supply of the world depends on their survival.

Mr Watson said: "Since the destructors, the mite, came into this country, bees are more susceptible to disease.

"It's like if you get the flu, you can get pneumonia.

"We have to look after them more now. There needs to be more research into bee diseases, but the government has taken away funding from some universities where that was done, so they have closed down. You could go to a hive and they will be all gone. If all the bees die off, we die off.

"Hilary Benn announced £10 million funding for bee research but that was for all bees, not just honey bees."

Mr Watson, who owns 12 hives which he keeps at Dorset Road allotments in Beckenham, became interested in beekeeping some 20 years ago. He said: "It is fascinating. I just like playing with bees."

He is now encouraging residents to get involved with starting their own hives. A beginner's kit costs around £200 and other equipment can be borrowed from bee keeping associations.

He said: "Quite a few people have joined the club in the past year. It's on the up.

"The club is hosting a 10-week course beginning in February. Students will learn all about bees, how to keep them, which diseases affect them and how to make honey."

Mr Watson added: "It's not complicated. Once you have the idea of what to do, it is probably about three quarters of an hour on one hive per week. It's not dangerous, you will get stung, but that's no worse than having an injection if you don't react badly.

"That's why we recommend people joining a club so they can see how they react to being stung before they buy the kit."

The course begins in February and runs for 10 weeks on Mondays from 7pm until around 9.30pm and costs £75.

For more information contact Mr Watson on 020 8658 3786 or 07771990034.

Bees born in May or June have a typical lifespan of six weeks whereas those born in September will normally live until the following March or April. A queen bee can live for up to five years.

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