Exhibition sheds light on university research into native bees

A bee's sting (Image by Glenn Harper/Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre)

The University of Plymouth is contributing to a major exhibition designed to throw new light on the fascinating world of bees and other native pollinators.

Plan Bee, which runs until March 17 at the Eden Project, aims to highlight the insects’ extraordinary lives and the threats they face.

There is a particular focus on research by the University and the B4 Project, which aims to develop increased understanding of the UK’s native dark honey bee (Apis mellifera mellifera).

With funding from the Natural Environment Research Council, the research is investigating the genetic and behavioural characteristics of the species.

Its ultimate aim is to use that increased knowledge to inform conservation policies that ensure the species remains part of our landscape in the future.

The research is being carried out by PhD student Victoria Buswell under the supervision of Dr Mairi Knight, Dr Jon Ellis and Dr Vanessa Huml, and Andrew Brown, Managing Director of the B4 Project.

Dr Knight, Head of the University’s School of Biological and Marine Sciences, said:

“This exhibition is a great opportunity to make more people aware of our research, and the native dark honey bee in general. It is also a chance for us to reach out to beekeepers across the South West and beyond, whose help is critical to the success of our project. The aim is to work in partnership with beekeepers to characterise our own biodiversity and to raise awareness of the threats from continental imports, working together to find solutions that do not depend on them."

“Native species are an important element of a region’s ecology because they adapt to their surroundings and any particular challenges they pose. One of the key threats from imports is the spread of harmful novel pathogens which natives often struggle to fight. It is a delicate balance but one we need to strike if we are to maintain diverse pollinator populations in the future.”

The Plan Bee exhibition also features stunning close-up images of the native dark honey bee.

The Bees Under the Lens display, produced in conjunction with Falmouth University, features images captured by Senior Technician Glenn Harper using cutting edge technology in the University of Plymouth’s Electron Microscopy Centre. He said:

“Images taken on the electron microscope allow us to see the otherwise hidden wonders of the worlds around us. They allow us to better understand form and with it, function, and allows the public a chance to engage with the project. They are also attention grabbing, and I overheard one child who was visiting the exhibition at the same time as me simply say ‘wow.”

The Plan Bee exhibition is being staged in Eden’s recently refurbished Core education centre and also features work by environmentalist and artist Kurt Jackson, an installation by artist Wolfgang Buttress, and a series of lightbox artworks by University of Plymouth Fine Art graduate Amy Shelton.

It will be on show Wednesdays to Sundays until February 18, and then seven days a week until March 17. Entry is included with Eden admission, Pass or Membership and for more information go to www.edenproject.com/plan-bee.

Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre

The Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre offers expert and specialist support to students, researchers, academics and industry. We have a comprehensive range of light microscopes, electron microscopes, imaging processing and analysis software providing support to a range of disciplines within the University, external research organisations and industry clients.

Find out more about the centre

School of Biological and Marine Sciences

Plymouth offers a friendly, exciting and supportive place to study biological sciences. Our staff are world-leading experts who are passionate and committed to both their research and teaching.

Find out more about biological sciences