Buzz about the bees: Leading bee lab holds open day

A honey bee waggle dances for nest mates in the hive

Honeybees on helenium

What flowers do bees like best? What makes the honey bee the only creature aside from other humans that can tell us where it’s been?

The answers to these questions, along with other fascinating secrets of the bee hive, will be revealed at the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects’ (LASI) first ever open day, at the University of Sussex on Saturday 20 July (1pm-5pm).

Population decline among honey bees and bumblebees remains a major concern not just for the scientists who study them but also for the farmers who rely on them to pollinate valuable food crops, and for the public, who just like to see bees going about their business in the garden.

Since 2008, the LASI has been working on projects to find out what can be done to improve our understanding of the challenges facing honey bees. Now the public has a chance to find out about how those projects are supporting honey bee health and well being – and learn what they can do to help the bees too.

The LASI is also home to important research into other social insects, particularly ants, and there will be an opportunity to find out more about these fascinating insects too.

The open day begins at 1pm and will include a range of activities and displays. Visitors will also have a chance to see the lab, the observation hives and the bee garden at the LASI. Refreshments will be available and entrance for the afternoon is free. Anyone wishing to attend is asked to fill in an online booking form.

There will be a range of demonstrations throughout the day, the first being at 1.30pm and the last at 4pm. These will include:

  • Queen rearing and testing for hygienic behaviour;
  • Looking at bee behaviour live with an observation hive and close-up camera;
  • Using the waggle dance to see where honey bees are foraging;
  • Controlling varroa mite;
  • Best plants for honey bees, bumblebees and other flower-visiting insects;
  • Communication in an ant colony;
  • Beekeepers Question Time: an opportunity to find out how LASI's bees are managed and to ask general questions about beekeeping.
  • Beewatch – what to look out for in your garden or the park.

Professor Francis Ratnieks, who is the Director of LASI, says: “Bees are remarkable animals with a strong connection to human life and culture and I’m sure visitors to the open day will be inspired by the work we do here.

“We hope that gardeners, beekeepers, garden centre staff, parks departments, conservationists, teachers and schoolchildren will come along and learn more about amazing honey bees and what they can do to make Britain more bee friendly.”

Notes for Editors

The Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) at the University of Sussex is the largest research group in the UK studying honey bees and other social insects. Social insects are the insects that live in a colony with a queen and workers like many bees, ants, wasps and termites. LASI research studies the honey bee and other social insects “in the round” addressing both applied and basic questions. The applied research is aimed at helping the honey bee and beekeepers, whilst the basic research studies how insect societies function.

Applied research is focused on the Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health and Well-Being, which started in October 2008. The Sussex Plan comprises four projects aimed at helping honey bees and beekeepers by breeding disease-resistant 'hygienic' honey bees, helping the honey bee and insect pollinators in urban areas, learning where honey bees gather pollen and nectar by decoding their communication dances, and helping bees and agricultural pollination in farm land.

How to get to the LASI: By train to Falmer, by bus numbers 25, 23, 28, 29 or by car to the University of Sussex. Free parking is available in the Science car park, number P1 on the campus map.

Where to find the LASI: See online map for directions to LASI on the University of Sussex campus.

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

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Last updated: Monday, 15 July 2013