BORDERS pupils are buzzing following a visit to the country's leading research centre for protecting bees.

Kelso High School is one of the growing number of secondaries in the country which have their own apiaries.

And just before Christmas, along with student beekeepers from Annan Academy, pupils were given an insight into the work of Edinburgh University's purpose-built bee lab.

During their day the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre the pupils worked with researchers and experienced beekeepers from the Roslin Institute to understand how science can be used to monitor honey bee health.

Dr Mark Barnett, a research fellow at the Roslin Institute, told us: "It’s been such a wonderful experience working with the young people on this project and watching them engage with biology in a way that they can really connect with.

"Most of the pupils in this group do not study biological science and would not identify maths as a favourite subject either, so to hear them discuss DNA, parasites and probability so enthusiastically really goes to show the strength of this vocational qualification.

"Huge thanks to the highly professional Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre team who made the day so special for us all."

Pests and diseases along with habitat loss, extreme weather and pesticides are blamed for the worrying decline in bee numbers across the country.

And it is estimated that around one-third of the UK's population has been lost over the past decade.

The pupils, who are enrolled in a new beekeeping course provided by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, carried out experiments focused on two parasites that affect the health of bees.

Prior to the lab visit they collected honey bee samples from their schools’ apiaries for DNA extraction.

They observed parasites present in the bees by using molecular biology techniques– conducting PCR and DNA gel electrophoresis.

And they were able to investigate parasites in their own bees.

Kelso High teacher Ray Baxter told us: "Our students said that learning about DNA and new techniques in the lab was a fun, amazing experience – one of them actually said that the day at Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre was the best day she has ever had."

The workshop enabled the pupils to develop a deeper understanding of the theory and techniques used in honey bee research.

Thanks to this unique citizen science project, they now better understand the health of their bee colonies to better inform hive management.

Fiona Highet, senior entomologist with the Scottish Government, added: "The success of this project has only been possible because people are committed to the idea of working in partnership to promote learning about honey bees.

"It is satisfying that learning science in the context of a fascinating topic such as honey bees can appeal to young people who have not previously shown an interest in these sciences.

"Spending a day at Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre was a unique opportunity for the pupils to engage with real-life science and Roslin Institute scientists, encouraging pupils to consider pursuing a science qualification and career."