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Katherine’s busy summer for bee research

JRA student Katie Fensome surveys downland for honey bee forage research

Human Science undergraduate Katherine Fensome spent the best days of summer sitting on the grassy slopes of the beautiful Sussex Downs – but it was all in the cause of science.

Katherine’s JRA placement was with the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex. LASI is currently researching several projects investigating honey bee health and behaviour as part of the Sussex Plan.

Research by LASI member Dr Margaret Couvillon has shown that honeybees find it hardest to find flowers during July and August. During that time, bees from LASI’s research hives tend to head to Castle Hill nature reserve, about 2km from the University campus.

Working with PhD student Nick Balfour, Katherine’s job was to survey test sections of grassland at Castle Hill, logging the types of insect foraging there, and what they were feeding on.

Katherine says: “The aim is to find out what honey bees and other pollinating insects are foraging on in the reserve and in the surrounding agricultural areas. The research will hopefully help us find out what plants are good for bees at this time, and to see whether we can link that with supporting other pollinators.

“We are also decording the bees’ waggle dances to check that they are still going to Castle Hill this year. So far, we have noticed that field margins and scrubby patches are very popular with honeybees – they seem to be foraging on the hogweed and bramble that grow in these areas. Importantly, the research is showing us that honey bees and other pollinators do use areas such as nature reserves, field margins and scrub, emphasising the importance of maintaining them.

“I chose to work at LASI because of the diversity of research projects that take place here. I’m very interested in agriculture and its effect on biodiversity, and a notable example of this in the UK is the decline in honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies and other pollinating insects, partly due to changing agricultural practices.

“After university, I would like to work or research in the area of conservation and sustainable agriculture. Doing a JRA has given me the opportunity to meet a number of people from different backgrounds and different interests, giving me a much better idea of the options out there after my degree.”

Notes for Editors

For more information about the work of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, and the Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health and Well Being, visit the LASI web site.

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email: press@sussex.ac.uk

View press releases online at: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/newsandevents/

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Last updated: Monday, 1 October 2012