Bees: Not Simply Pollinators

Honeybees are vital pollinators and their decline has been documented thoroughly across the news in recent years. Our Brayford Campus is now home to an observation hive, installed here as part of a research project looking into insect cognition.

We spoke with Elisa Frasnelli, Lecturer in Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, about the bees and why we have them on the Brayford Campus.

What is the purpose of having the bees on campus?

Elisa: There are several purposes associated with having bees on campus. On the educational side, they will allow us to run practicals and research projects with students in a variety of modules. On the research side, staff at the University would be able to study honeybees’ behaviour and cognition especially in relation to tasks involving their role as pollinators. Moreover, this action will be presented in Open Days and Offer Holder Days to show the community the variety of research run at the University as well as the benefits of it. This will also offer a unique opportunity for active collaboration with farmers and regional beekeepers.

The University’s staff are already in contact with the Lincolnshire Beekeepers Association and they have responded to this initiative with great interest and support. Another purpose of having bees on campus is to enable the public to act as informed citizens and inspire the next generations of researchers. Therefore, we are planning to organise targeted activities; local schools and the community will be invited to attend to in order to raise awareness of the importance of studying bees as important pollinators but also as a great model for neuroscientific studies.

What type of bees are they?

Elisa: Honeybees Apis mellifera.

What was the process of setting the hive up?

Elisa: After presenting the idea to Professor Steve Bevan, Head of School of Life Sciences, he offered his support to build up a concrete base and a shed to host an observation hive. The observation hive was setup by Dr Adrian Goodman, Programme Leader of the Biology degree and an active beekeeper, who is involved in the project and transferred one of the colonies he has at Riseholme to the Charlotte Scott ponds.

Why did you choose this location?

Elisa: The Charlotte Scott ponds is a convenient location because it is close to Joseph Banks Laboratories and the Think Tank where the staff of Life Sciences are based and thus it allows immediate access to researchers as well as students. This is a perfect location also from a safety point of view as it is far enough from pedestrian pathways. Importantly, from the bees’ point of view, the Charlotte Scott ponds are a very good green area at the edge of the campus, allowing the bees to forage both on campus, in the city and in the more rural surrounding areas.

Who can see the hive?

Elisa: Access to the area is possible through a gate which has a coded lock. Only a few members of staff know the code. Thus, although visible from outside by students and staff passing close to the area, the ponds would be accessible only with a member of staff. Moreover, the shed containing the observation hive is locked and only three people have the key to open it.

Can anyone volunteer to help out with the project?

Elisa: Absolutely, the only concern is safety issues.

What do you think the impact will be on the local environment?

Elisa: I think it would benefit it by improving pollination but also our knowledge about bees’ behaviour and cognition in order to have an impact on the society and economy in the long term. The bees may even help increase the yield of the vegetables in the Kitchen Garden and the fruit trees across the campus. It is also possible that on a warm sunny day we may see our bees foraging for nectar and pollen in the wildflower meadow outside Joseph Banks Laboratories.

If you’re interested in supporting the local honeybee population – and that of other pollinators – you can find a list of recommended flowers to plant on the Wildlife Trust’s website.

Contact  Elisa Frasnelli for further details on how to get involved with the project.