Sussex students bring home the honey for bee research

Bee-lighted: Professor Francis Ratnieks and RAG President Emma Shaughnessy in the bee lab

University of Sussex RAG President and Psychology finalist student Emma Shaughnessy got a guided tour of the University's Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) when she delivered a cheque for nearly £3,000 to aid bee research.

Professor Francis Ratnieks, who heads the lab and is leading research into honey bees there, was on hand to accept the donation, raised at a black-and-yellow themed bee ball held at Stanmer House in Stanmer Park in February.

The event, organised by the student RAG committee, was attended by students and University staff, who enjoyed food, drinks, entertainment, raffle prizes and free honey provided by other donors to bee research at Sussex - the Co-op, Rowse Honey and cosmetics company Burt's Bees.

Emma, who dropped off the cheque having just completed her last exams, was delighted with the success of the event, and with the grand total raised of £2,901.60.

She said: "Supporting bee research at Sussex seemed a perfect fit with the aims of RAG. We work to benefit the community - this time we kept it close to home, supporting research that will benefit the wider community. The ball itself was also a great way for the University community of staff and students to come together for a good cause. It was great just how much people enjoyed themselves and I hope our efforts will inspire the next RAG students."

Professor Ratnieks and his team of researchers are currently running a breeding programme to raise hygienic bees that can help to keep hives free of disease. They are also decoding the waggle dances of bees to determine where bees forage for nectar. The distinctive waggling is a code that tells other bees in the hive where to go to find flowers to feed on.

Both projects are part of the Sussex Plan for Honeybee Health and Well-Being, which aims to help protect the honey bee, which is currently under threat from disease and pests, pollution, and starvation caused by a loss of nectar-giving flowers in the environment.

Bees are important to humans and ecology as they pollinate many plants, including food crops. Their behaviour is also a fascinating subject for scientists.

Thanking Emma and the RAG students for their amazing fundraising feat, Professor Ratnieks said: "This is a substantial and meaningful donation. It could fund a student to study in the lab, or buy an important piece of equipment, or pay for a new project, such as a research bed of bee-friendly lavender. The money has stayed in Sussex, but it's for research that will ultimately benefit the wider community, as it will be helping us to protect the honey bee."

He added: "To have this sum donated by University of Sussex students who believe the work of LASI is a good cause, well that's really special."

Notes for Editors


For further information about the work of LASI, visit

Contact: Maggie Clune at the University of Sussex Press office. Tel:  01273 678 888 or email

Last updated: Friday, 28 May 2010