The Garden Plants for Bees Workshop at LASI – pg2

2the project will also carry out research to facilitate keeping hives in urban areas, such as allotments and gardens. It can be challenging for beekeepers to find urban apiary locations. The research will investigate the efficacy of hedges or lattice fences around an apiary in reducing stinging, by forcing bees to fly high, thereby reducing collisions with humans. A key aim of this research is to provide information that will allow honey bees to be kept on allotments, thereby providing urban beekeepers places to keep hives and at the same time
providing pollination.

Mounted Specimens

Over 45 participants took part in the workshop which began with an introduction to the work of LASI from Francis Ratnieks, followed by a lecture on the importance of garden plants for pollinators in a changing landscape, from Bee Craft Deputy Editor, Steve Alton. The final classroom session was a crash course in the identification of the five groups of pollinators from Mihail Garbuzov, using both slides and mounted insect specimens.



Prof Francis Ratnieks, top, gives the background, while below, LASI student Jodie Baker explains the methodology

Next stop was the experimental trial site to put the theory into practice. The original aim of the project was to compare different varieties of lavender, supplied by Downderry Nurseries of Kent. However, over the course of the first year, the range of plants was expanded to include a variety of widely available garden species and an experimental ‘garden’ was created on the edge of the Sussex campus. Here, two patches of each test species are planted in two concentric circles. This design was chosen over a square grid arrangement to avoid any spatial effects caused by a species being on the edge of the plot rather than the middle. Workshop attendees had the opportunity to work their way around the circles, recording the numbers of the different pollinating groups present on each patch. Unfortunately on the second day the weather was unfavourable and only a handful of bumblebees were seen, but on the first day a good selection of insects was recorded.


Back in the lab, the results were collated and discussed. The aim of this project is to provide, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ list of bee-friendly plants, a method whereby beekeepers and gardeners can produce their own lists, appropriate to their geographic location, soil type and gardening preferences. Feedback from the attendees – who included beekeepers, professional and amateur gardeners and the media – was very positive and it is hoped that over the coming years a much clearer picture of the value of our garden plants for pollinators will become available. As one course participant commented: ‘Excellent presentation of activities which has practical use within society. Very valuable to get hands-on experience of the research that is in progress.’

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