Ainsley Harriott tours the bee lab for BBC food show

TV chef Ainsley Harriott joined bee researchers for breakfast at the University of Sussex to learn more about the honey bee for a new BBC series about British food.

The Great British Food Revival, now showing on BBC2, focuses on the issues - and recipes - involving traditional British produce.

Cheese and honey feature on the programme this week (Wednesday 30 March 2011), so Ainsley makes a trip to the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) at Sussex, where he learns about the decline of the British honey bee, and why so little of the honey we eat is actually made by bees in Britain.

Ainsley says: "We're going to be looking at British produce that's threatened and bringing it to people's attention."

The star of Ready, Steady Cook! shared a feast of homemade bread, goat's cheese and LASI-produced honey with Professor of Apiculture Francis Ratnieks, researchers Dr Margaret Couvillon, Dr Karin Alton and the LASI student team before filming the observation hives in the lab.

 Professor Ratnieks says: "About 100 years ago we might have provided half of the honey we used, but now it's just 10 per cent."

What can be done to revive honey bee populations? Research at LASI is helping - by identifying the best flowers for bees to forage on and by investigating whether a lack of the right flowers is contributing to honey bee decline.

Professor Ratnieks and the LASI team's honey bee research - collectively known as The Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health and Well Being - includes projects such as breeding disease-resistant 'hygienic' honey bees, decoding waggle dances to determine where honey bees forage and helping the honey bee and insect pollinators in urban areas.

Ainsley says: "As soon as I walked in I noticed the positive energy and the passion there is here for everything about bees. It's a little bit of bee heaven - sharing a honey breakfast with the next generation of bee scientists. With LASI on their side, we might not need to worry about the honey bee after all."

As part of the programme, Ainsley will be cooking up a few honey-based treats. He says: "Let's do our best to save British honey bees. We want to make people more aware of where their produce comes from when they walk down the aisle of the supermarket. Its place of origin should be as important as checking the label for calories or additives."

Bees are important as pollinators of UK food crops as well as producers of honey, and their biology and behavior are just as important to scientific inquiry.

Notes for editors


The Great British Food Revival in on Wednesday 30 March on BBC2 at 8pm.

Try Ainsley's recipe for yogurt hotcakes with bananas and honeycomb butter as featured on the LASI web site.

LASI is the only University-based laboratory that has a dedicated programme for studying the honey bee in the round. For more information about the work being carried out at LASI, see

LASI research is currently supported by donations from companies such as Rowse Honey, Waitrose, Burt's Bees and the Body Shop Foundation - reflecting the important part played by bees and honey in food and cosmetic production. The huge public interest has also ensured that nearly three-quarters of a million pounds has been raised so far for research, including donations from private benefactors, charitable institutions and schoolchildren.

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Last updated: Monday, 28 March 2011