LSE Bees in Green Week

Honey sticks, football-playing bees, a hive visit for LSE staff – these are just a few of the things we had lined up for LSE Green Week.

How Bees Learn from Each Other: Talk by Prof Lars Chittka (1 March)

The most eagerly-anticipated event of the week was a talk by Prof Lars Chittka on How Bees Learn from Each Other. Prof Chittka is Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at QMUL and one of the world’s foremost experts on bee behaviour. He and his team have variously attached ‘licence plates’ to bees, studied whether bumblebees have ‘personalities’ and even investigated whether caffeine boosts bees’ memories.

The timing of his talk was highly fortuitous, coming just a week after his study on football-playing bees was published in Science, receiving widespread media coverage.

LSE Honey Sale (1 March)

LSE Bees had their own stall in front of the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, where we sold off our last few jars of honey and spread awareness about the importance of pollinators.

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Apiary Open Days (1 & 2 March)

Our hive visits are usually restricted to society members only, but what better time than LSE Green Week to have an Apiary Open Day? In fact, we had not one but two open days – one for students and one for staff. The staff open day was particularly popular: the 30 available spaces got booked out within hours of being announced on the staff newsletter and their enthusiasm was rewarded with bright sunshine which meant active bees. Best of all, some of the first-time visitors liked it enough that they joined our society, so we will be seeing a lot more of them in the near future!

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Interview with Dr Delphine Bénézet: the first staff member of our Society!

A little-known fact: the LSESU Beekeeping Society is open not just to students but also members of staff! Dr Delphine Bénézet recently became the first staff member of our Society, to add to the 90-odd student members we already have. In this interview she talks about the best and worst parts of her job, her love of cinema, and the magical experience of being amongst the bees on the LSE rooftop.

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Would you tell us a little bit about your role at LSE?

I have been working in the Academic Partnerships division for two years. We coordinate and support a range of activities between the LSE and a number of institutional partners across the globe. These include summer school programmes in Beijing and Cape Town, double degrees, PhD mobility exchanges and collaborative research activities.

What are the best (and worst) parts of your job?

Until recently my job focused on the two summer programmes we have in South Africa and China, so one of the highlights of 2016 for me was to go to Cape Town last July. It was wonderful to see all our hard work come to fruition on site, and to hear about the opportunities the programme opened to our participants afterwards. The worst part of my job? That’s a hard question, the most frustrating part is certainly to see so many smart and able applicants who cannot find any scholarship to finance their project. This is when I wish I had a magic wand, or bottomless pockets!

How did you find out about LSE Bees, and why did you decide to sign up?

When I joined the London School of Economics, I looked at the SU website and remember being amazed at the number and diversity of societies offered! The beekeeping society immediately struck a chord mainly for two reasons. The first is that my grandfather (who owned a farm) had a number of hives but had never taken me along (in his defense he passed when I was quite young, had 20 other grandchildren, and lived 800km away), and the second is that I have always been interested in topics relating to sustainability and ecology.

And so far, has your (brief) experience with LSE Bees lived up to your expectations?

I have only visited the hive once since I joined LSE Bees but so far it’s been great! I did not have much hope when we visited the hives because it was so early in the year, but surprisingly we got to see bees flying around. It was a beautiful day and I felt really lucky to be able to escape from my desk and see these incredible creatures at work.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am an avid reader, a keen cook, and a bit of cinephile (I have written a book about the French filmaker Agnès Varda). So a perfect weekend would include a family hike, a meal with friends and a good movie at the BFI, ICA, or the Brixton Ritzy.

It’s great to have a staff member in a “student” society! Would you recommend LSE Bees to other members of staff, and do you have any suggestions for how we can get more staff members involved?

Funny that you mention this, I have already been preaching how special this society and its activities are to my colleagues! While my reasons to join the society are quite personal, I believe that nothing beats learning something different and meeting new people. Plus standing on the roof of Connaught House and watching a hive in full swing is both a magic and humbling experience! I know that some departments and services occasionally organise fundraising bake offs, how about one taking place across the school with one mandatory ingredient: honey?

How Bees Learn from Each Other

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Prof Lars Chittka, Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at QMUL and one of the world’s foremost experts on bee behaviour, has kindly agreed to deliver a talk at LSE next week. Prof Chittka’s papers have been published in Nature, Science and other leading journals, and is regularly featured in the media (the Guardian, BBC and the New York Times, to name just a few).

This is no surprise because his research is truly fascinating. Prof Chittka and his team have variously tracked bees with radar, studied whether bumblebees have ‘personalities’ and even investigated whether caffeine boosts bees’ memories.

Next week’s talk will draw on a recent paper published in PLoS Biology, where the researchers discovered (SPOILER ALERT!) that bees can learn how to pull a string for food just by observing other bees, and can in turn pass this information to other bees in the colony. They argue that the way bees use simple mechanisms to achieve complex behaviours may help uncover the basic cognitive elements required for culture.

So join us next week to learn more about bees and their fascinating (and frankly adorable) behaviour. And maybe get some ideas on how humans can learn from each other!

Event details
Date: Wednesday 1 March 2017
Time: 5:00-6:00 pm
Venue: LSE Clement House, CLM 3.04
This is a free event, open to LSE staff and students only.

Beekeeping 101 and Bee Library

Last week was Reading Week at LSE, so what better time to inaugurate our all-new bee library!

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We also had a Beekeeping 101 talk by Luke Dixon, a professional beekeeper who helps us look after our rooftop hives (bonus points if you can spot his book in the pic above!)

The audience ranged from people who have kept bees for years to new members who have never even seen a beehive in real life (something which will hopefully change at our next hive visit!) Despite the wide variation, Luke – who in addition to being very knowledgeable about bees, is also a highly entertaining speaker – had everyone engrossed from start to finish.

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Bee Educated

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Curious about bees? Next week we are hosting a talk by Dr Luke Dixon, our professional beekeeper, who also looks after the Natural History Museum beehive and is the author of three books about bees. The talk is free to attend for all LSE students and staff. Luke will talk about life inside the hive, the importance of bees, and beekeeping in London and around the world.

We will also inaugurate (and you’ll have the chance to browse) our all-new Bee Library!

If you’re on Facebook, please indicate your interest on our event page so that we have an idea about numbers. See you soon!

Event details
Date: Thursday 16 Feb
Time: 5-6 pm
Venue: Clement House CLM.2.05

First Hive Visit of the New Year

…was on January 24. Much to our surprise, the bees were buzzing about like it’s springtime! Luke said these are the first active bees he has seen this year – a sign of the good health of the colony.

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The spider in the cedar hive is still around, though she scurried away into the depths of the hive before we could take a photo. The nuc box unfortunately had some dead bees. Luke pointed out how they are noticeably larger than summer bees (because they store protein and other nutrients inside their bodies). They also have a longer lifespan (~6 months) compared to summer bees who only live around 6 weeks. If you want to know more about winter bees and what they do, HoneyBeeSuite has a great post about them.