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Honey crop to be harvested at Ulverston sewage works
4:26pm Monday 30th July 2012 in News
A FURNESS bee-keeper is looking to harvest his first crop of honey - from Ulverston sewage works.
Mike Luke set up four hives on spare land at the Ulverston Waste Water Treatment Works earlier this year after spotting its potential for wild flowers.
"South west Cumbria isn't an easy place for bees because it's mainly arable land and there aren't many flowering crops. But many of our sewage works are perfect as they are havens for wild flowers and have areas not used by the public that are left as mini nature reserves," he said.
Fellow bee-keeper and United Utilities colleague Ken Shepherd has set up another hive at Milnthorpe Waste Water Treatment Works.
"We haven't had any honey yet, and it will depend on the weather, but it should be good going through July. There's no reason why honey from here won't taste as good as it does anywhere else."
Mike estimates around 175,000 bees are living in the four hives at Ulverston. Bees have been known to travel up to three miles in search of food, but there are plenty of lush well-fed wild flowers just yards away at the sewage works.
"I suppose being on a sewage works is good for the flowers, which is why it's good for the bees. Honey bees are responsible for almost 90% of the pollination of our crops, flora and fauna so they are the very cornerstone of biodiversity itself.
"You can tell they are happy if they start flying in the early morning and bring in both nectar and pollen. The ones at the works are out gathering nectar first thing," said Mike.
Mike, originally from the North East, moved to Ulverston as the area's waste water manager. He was also part of a huge project to clean up the North West's coast - work United Utilities continues in Cumbria today.
He started bee-keeping after chatting to an enthusiast in his local pub eight years ago, and is now chairman of Furness Bee-Keepers Association with three hives at his home.
"In a good year you can get 50 to 60 jars per hive, but a lot depends on the weather. I haven't thought what I might call it yet. Maybe something with 'united' in the name."
Area treatment manager Andrew Kendall said United Utilities had a long history of balancing its work with the needs of the environment. Mike now works in regional maintenance strategy, based at the Ulverston works, helping plan some of the company’s £3.6bn investment in improving water quality and the