IT SOUNDED like the opening of a cheap comedy: myself in a space-age beekeeper costume, a buzzing team from Oxford City Council and 150,000 slightly irate bees.

But lifting the lid on the hive I discovered that beekeeping, jokingly called the “second-oldest profession in the world”, is no laughing matter.

Taking care of these wonderful creatures is one of a series of ventures in the spotlight as part of Low Carbon Oxford Week, which started at the weekend and runs until Saturday.

Community beehives are located at Hogacre Common Eco Park, a 14-acre site off Whitehouse Road, South Oxford, rented from Corpus Christi College.

The park’s Hugh Crombie said: “Our rent is a jar of honey a year. Bees are very important.

“As a species they are still under the cosh. We don’t push ours too hard. The main reason for having them wasn’t to maximise the honey output.”

Bees in Oxfordshire and the UK have declined dramatically in recent years.

Without a thriving bee population humanity’s prospects are dire as pollinated plants produce breathable oxygen and about a third of all food.

About six hives of varying sizes and designs are located at Hogacre. Every few weeks beekeepers check the ‘super’, where honey is created, and the lower part where the queen bee resides, to make sure everything is functioning normally.

Despite an excited swarm crawling up my legs and face cover, the whole experience was oddly relaxing.

Mr Crombie said: “The bees are both supporting a local production and also themselves for their own importance.

“If people are interesting in joining the beekeeping group, they are more than welcome.”

Budding apiarists are spoiled for choice in Oxford, where there are plenty of opportunities to learn more.

Tomorrow a free event, which is now fully-booked, from 12.30pm in Hinksey Park, will give visitors a buffet lunch and insight into bees and the work going on in Oxfordshire, home to 150 species, to protect them.

After 2pm people can help build ‘bee hotels’ out of old pallets.

Jenny Ekelund, of co-organisers Oak Grove Associates, said: “We want to make Oxford the most bee-friendly city in the country.

“I think we can do it. There’s a huge amount going on.”

She said one way people could help bees was to allow sections of their gardens to grow wild, and not mow the lawn too often.

Low Carbon Oxford Week is a summer festival, hosted by a network of groups, inspiring local people to take action against climate change.

Co-ordinator Lois Muddiman said: “Low Carbon Oxford showcases any initiatives that have reduced carbon in their area.

“It’s also a great opportunity for the public to get involved. Oxford really is one of the green centres.”