A new design of urban beehive is set to go head to head with the traditional 19th century design, as the project 'Plastic Fantastic' and Knowsley Safari Park set out to uncover the most effective way to protect and nurture the British honey bee.
Numbers of bees in Great Britain, which help pollinate 90% of the world's commercial plants, have reached a steady year-on-year decline, with research from University of Reading showing a 54% decline in the managed population between 1985 - 2005.
And now a new project is set to test how bees fare in both traditional National Cedar hives and the new modern plastic Beehaus hives, designed by James Tuthill.
20 nucleus of bees (each containing 10,000 bees) will be split between National Cedar hives and Beehaus hives at two contrasting sites; the vast rural expanse of Knowsley Safari Park, and the urban Queensway Allotments in Crosby. The three year project will test colony performance, the health of the bees, their resistance to disease and levels of honey production.
The project will help keepers to uncover the best way to care for the insect and educate the public in the cultivation of this important species. Staunch traditionalists are backing the National Cedar hives as the environment most likely to help the British Honey Bees to flourish; yet more modern schools of thought rate the odds of the plastic Beehaus design.
All of the honey collected will be packaged and sold; contracts have already been secured and pledges have been made to plough all profits back into the venture for further research.
Rachel Scott, Head of Marketing at Knowsley Safari Park said: "It is critical that we do what we can to help nurture the British bee. This project aims to identify the best way to house a colony, and also educate the public about the small steps we can all take to ensure that the decline of the British bee is halted."
John Moran, Project Leader, said: "We can't wait to get this project underway, and find out once and for all which hive is the ideal habitat for our British bees.