OXFORDSHIRE residents could take up a new career as beekeepers as part of a drive to increase the number of the insects in the county.

Council officers are looking at what they can do to improve the bee population after councillors passed a motion on the issue.

Some of the ideas include encouraging people to have beehives in their gardens and to do what they can to support the pollination of insects.

Officers will now work with various groups to try to get money to create bee-related projects and set up a countywide response to the dwindling bee population.

Green county councillor David Williams, who proposed the motion, said: “There has been a 60 per cent decline in the number of bees recorded from 1968 to 2010 and that decline has been quite rapid in the last 10 years.

“As bees pollinate 80 per cent of our food that’s very significant and if we carry on like this we will have food shortages and the price of food will go through the roof.

“The motion called for a new approach from the county council and there was cross-party agreement that we need to do something.”

He said a key part of what the county council does is encouraging people to take on beehives.

Mr Williams said: “People will need advice and they will have to be trained but that’s where the county council can come in and I am hoping we can take it forward quickly.”

He expected the financial burden of acquiring the beehives would probably fall on the volunteers but said the county council could help by providing advice and making it easier for people to take on some bees.

Phil Sharman, vice-chairman of Oxfordshire Beekeepers Association, said there were approximately 400 beekeepers in the county and plenty of scope for more.

He said: “We most certainly welcome the county council’s support on this. If we want to encourage more bees then more beekeepers is probably the right idea.”

Mr Sharman said setting up a beehive costs in the region of £1,000 and the association can put interested people in touch with bee sellers.

Fiona Tavner, of Oxford Friends of the Earth, said: “The public can help create more habitats for bees by planting more pollinator-friendly plants in their gardens or balconies.

“Encouraging the growth of wildflowers along our highways is a good idea.”

Officers at the county council will also be working with farmers on crop planting to help encourage bees.

County council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “There is not specific county council funding available at present.

“The decision on how to implement the full council decision will be taken in due course.”

Anyone interested in owning a hive and becoming a member of the Oxfordshire Beekeepers Association can email Mr Sharman on membership@ obka.org

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