Armagh factory hive of activity as staff get busy cultivating bees
The grounds of a company in Co Armagh have become an unlikely home to 20,000 bees - and the population is set to expand.
A group of employees at Craigavon-based Interface have been cultivating their own bee colony at the modular flooring manufacturer.
Staff are currently looking after more than 20,000 of the honey-making insects.
They are also transforming what was once a wasteland at the rear of factory into a bee-friendly nature reserve.
Interface's sustainability model has shown through its 'Mission Zero' programme how large industrial firms can significantly reduce carbon emissions and other environmental impacts.
Ryan McCavigan of Interface said: "The idea came from our vision of 'Factories to Forests', which seeks to ensure that our operations have a positive impact on the environment rather than a negative one.
"That led to a conversation among the staff about bees and the environment.
"Several months later we have two hives, 20,000 indigenous Irish bees and plans for another 20,000.
"We're also creating a new one-acre wildlife meadow with bee-friendly plants and will be taking our beekeepers' course in the new year."
Chris McKeag added: "By coincidence, my day job is to manage the plant's 'B shift'. Now I'm part of a new 'bee shift' of dedicated volunteers who have been captivated by the amazing life of bees and who want to do their bit to help the under-pressure species."
There are around 5,500 known beehives in Northern Ireland, but the population has fallen in recent years.
It's estimated that up to a third of Ireland's bee species are threatened with extinction. This could have a major impact on the agri-food sector, which relies upon bees to pollinate crops.
Interface has been operating in Craigavon since 1982.
The plant employs 190 and currently produces five million square metres of bespoke, modular flooring annually.