WHO would have thought the solution to the UK's vanishing bees might be double-glazing?

That is the answer being proffered by a community solar farm group which thinks it has found a second way to use the power of the sun's rays to save the environment.

The Southill Solar group in Charlbury believes it is the proud owner of the UK's very first thermosolar beehive.

It sounds high-tech, but basically it's an ordinary beehive with two double-glazed windows.

Why, you might ask?

The answer – the deadly varroa mite.

These tiny parasites are present in all bee colonies, but in greater numbers can transmit harmful diseases.

Some scientists have linked the mites to massive declines in bee populations throughout Europe and the US in recent decades.

Until now, beekeepers have generally used pesticides or chemical treatments to kill the parasites, but these treatments can often kill bees as well as mites.

A much safer solution is simply to turn up the heat.

The thermosolar beehive's two windows can raise the temperature inside the nest to 47°C, a heat which kills off the mites whilst leaving the bees unharmed.

Southill's thermosolar hive was installed at the site on Tuesday this week by the group's near neighbour and part-time beekeeper Tom Worsley.

Mr Worsley, an engineer by day, helped to crowd fund the development of the potentially groundbreaking hive by a group in the Czech Republic.

When the first batch were produced, having been one of the very first investors, he got first dibs.

He ended up spending about £650 on the hive – about double what a normal hive costs – but hopefully a significant saving on pesticides.

More importantly, he and Southill Solar are hoping they might be in on the ground floor of an innovation which could revolutionise the world of beekeeping.

Southill Solar director Tim Crisp said: "Bees are so important, they are the pollinators of our lives: all the fruit we eat, and many of the vegetables, are available only because bees go around pollinating plants; they are absolutely crucial to the food chain.

"We recognise the importance of bees as part of the ecological improvements we are trying to achieve at Southill Solar."

Southill is even planning to plant a 25-acre wildflower meadow next to its 4.5MW solar array and hope the bees will use it as a food source.

When the colony is established, the group are hoping their little hive will be able to produce 50kg jars of honey every year, which it can market as 'Southill Honey' to promote the project.

Mr Crisp added: "This is a wonderful thing that represents exactly what we are doing: it is all about solar energy, it is all about biodiversity, and it is a great way to provoke a conversation about helping the environment."