A LANDFILL site near Bicester is set to become home to around half a million honeybees this summer.

Recycling, landfill and low-carbon energy company Viridor has transformed the old Ardley Landfill, which closed five years ago, into an expanse of greenery five times the size of South Park in Oxford.

The company has installed nine beehives to the site, kept by local husband-and-wife beekeepers Derrick and Aragorn Lawrence.

The initiative will help increase bee populations in the county – with three bees for every person in Oxford – while producing more than 500 jars of honey over the summer.

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Mr Lawrence said: “The honeybee is in rapid decline, with loss of habitat being the number one cause, yet their existence is essential to life.

“We can all agree on the importance of protecting bee populations, but it can be difficult as a bee keeper to find a suitable location to raise and look after the bees.”

According to Greenpeace, there has been a 45 per cent loss of commercial honeybees in the UK since 2010.

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The Ardley site just outside of Bicester. Picture: Google Maps

As well as making honey, bees are key to food production because they pollinate crops.

Mr Lawrence said the location of the beehives in Ardley was ‘excellent’ as the bees would have plenty of space to forage.

He added: “Bees typically forage over a 3km area: from Ardley this provides an excellent location to cover hedgerows, fields and gardens across Bicester, Heyford, Somerton, Kirtlington, Tackley and Fritwell.

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“The richness and diversity of this area is reflected in the quality of the honey the bees produce and many have said the honey from our Ardley bees is the very best they have had.”

Ardley Landfill, which sits next to Viridor’s Energy Recovery Facility (ERF), closed in April 2014 after 35 years of service so that non-recyclable domestic waste could be used as a resource at the ERF instead.

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File photo of honeybees hard at work.

The ERF treats 326,300 tonnes of non-recyclable waste each year and diverts at least 95 per cent of Oxfordshire’s residual municipal waste away from landfill.

The site also generates enough electricity to power the equivalent of 59,616 homes.

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Terry Murphy, Viridor’s director of landfill, said: “Viridor is committed to improving biodiversity in a way which benefits the local community and wildlife.

“The closure of any landfill is just the beginning of our contribution to establish healthy places and habitats. We will continue to care for and restore the Ardley landfill for decades to come.

“We were really pleased to have been approached by the beekeepers. We hope that the bees enjoy their new home as much as we hope to enjoy the honey.”