A RARE bee orchid was discovered by St Helens College animal care students.

The flower, which mimics a bumblebee, is an unusual find in the north west and is a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).

Students found the orchid after carrying out a survey of the wildlife at the technology campus.

Tutor Michael Smillie, pictured with the students, said: “We were very surprised and happy to discover the slow growing bee orchid, a rare plant in the north, especially since students made the discovery within such an urban environment. We hope the protected orchids return next year in increased numbers.”

For information on animal care courses at St Helens College, call 0800 99 66 99, or visit sthelens.ac.uk.