Day trip to Kew Gardens

Following the success of last year’s spring trip to Kew Gardens, the society headed back to the Gardens on Sunday 29th October, to appreciate the beauties and secrets of autumn, and of course learn about bees and beekeeping.

The highlights of the trip included a visit to the Palm House, where we learnt about the importance of bees for pollination of plants such as coffee, as well as the effect caffeine has on the bees. Incidentally, Professor Lars Chittka, whom we invited to deliver a talk at LSE last year, has done some fascinating research on how caffeine boosts bees’ memories.

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Of course, the Kew experience would not be complete without a visit to the The Hive installation. We were lucky enough to catch a talk by professional beekeeper Sharon Bassey, who showed us how to catch a swarm, let us taste pollen, honey and propolis, and talked about the potential social impact of beekeeping, with examples from prisoners at HMP Wandsworth, children in Tower Hamlet’s schools, and to combat post-traumatic stress disorder in the army.

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Finally, after a picnic in the park to restore our energy, we started a small ‘treasure hunt’ to find the Kew Gardens bee hives. It wasn’t easy, but we (or at least some of us) found it!

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We are planning another trip in Spring, so please do contact us if you’re interested!

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LSE Bees Goes to School (to run a Bee Workshop!)

We do a number of outreach events and we enjoy them all, but just like last year, the absolute highlight was doing a workshop about Bees and the Environment at Fairley House, a school for children with learning difficulties. About 20 children aged 6-9 participated in the workshop: a very different target audience from what we have in our outreach events which are mostly for LSE students and staff.

We started with a short talk covering the different types of bees and their role in pollination, how honey bees are reared domestically for honey and wax, and what we can do to help bees. In between, the children did an activity where they learnt to identify honey bees and some ‘close cousins’: bumblebees, wasps and hoverflies.

After the talk, the children split up into groups and participated in a carousel of two more activities, developed in collaboration with the school’s Geography teacher, Ms Longmore-Reid: a honey-tasting session and a sequencing exercise.

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We ended with a Q&A session. The children were especially fascinated by the beekeeping equipment (including some frames with real honeycomb) and had loads of questions.

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The children appeared to enjoy the workshop as much as we did, so a huge vote of thanks to Ms Longmore-Reid and the rest of the staff at Fairley House for inviting us back to conduct the most enjoyable bee workshop ever!

National Honey Week with Bee Urban

Did you know that last week was National Honey Week? To celebrate, a small group from LSE Bees joined Bee Urban in Kennington Park on Saturday October 28th. Bee Urban had honey tasting and honey beer tasting sessions. They also had community beekeepers on hand to answer questions about the hive, the honey extraction process and which bee-friendly flowers to plant. It was great to discuss beekeeping with other community beekeepers! If you missed the event, don’t worry – you can try the Kennington Park honey at our Honey Tasting event on November 16th (watch this space for more announcements!)

Give-it-a-Go!

A record 55 students (almost more beekeepers than bees!) came to our first hive visit of the new academic year – a ‘Give-it-a-Go’ session where LSE students could get a taste of beekeeping and meet a real live beekeeper, our very own Luke Dixon! We all took turns trying on bee suits, opening hives and getting a closer look at some of the hardest-working members of the LSE family.

We also did an informal spot-survey, and here are the results!

Finally, we had our AGM where we treated ourselves to pizza and elected the new committee:

President: Marta Talevi
Secretaries: Taylor Braun-Dorrell & Sroyon Mukherjee
Treasurers: Alaina Boyle & Pablo Soares Schweigler
Communication Officer: Laura Domínguez-Pires
Events Manager: Gayatri Mehta

Congratulations to all, and here’s to another great year of beekeeping!

Solitary Bees!

LSE is all about diversity, but we at LSE Bees have been a bit behind the curve. Not when it comes to humans, we hasten to add – the LSESU Beekeeping Society is diverse and inclusive, with members from a wide range of backgrounds and academic disciplines. But when it comes to bees, we have tended to focus almost exclusively on Apis mellifera, a.k.a. the European honey bee. Until now…

This week we installed our brand new solitary bee nest-box in the Passfield Hall garden! What are solitary bees? Read on to find out!

Photo courtesy Ibolya Trebert

Britain has over 270 species of bees, and the honey bee is only one of them. Of the rest, the vast majority – nearly 250 species – are solitary bees. They have fascinating names – cuckoo bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees, flower bees – and even more fascinating lives.

Unlike honey bees, solitary bees do not form colonies (sometimes it’s good to be antisocial, argues Silvia Golumbeanu), nor do they produce honey. However, they are very good at pollination. Why? Because they are clumsier! Honey bees carry pollen in specialised pollen baskets on their hind legs. But as this excellent article explains:

some solitary bees are incredibly good pollinators because they are so bad at it. Mason and leafcutter solitary bees store pollen on their undercarriage, dropping it here, there and everywhere. One red mason bee can match the pollination work of more than 100 honeybees, research indicates.

And because unlike honey bees, they have no honey stores to protect, solitary bees do not sting! Brigit Strawbridge has a great post about which bees sting and which don’t, where she writes:

[female solitary bees] are equipped with tiny stings but rarely, if ever, do they use them. You would have to squash them to provoke them to sting – and even then, the sting on most of these bees is so insignificant that it cannot even pierce human skin.

So while honey bees, bumblebees and butterflies get all the limelight, solitary bees remain the harmless, unsung heroes of the pollinator world!

Sadly, many solitary bee species are more threatened than the commercially-cultivated honey bee, and in greater need of protection. Come spring, we hope our nest-box will attract mason bees, leafcutter bees, and maybe some even rarer species. Best of all, the box has observation panels, which means we can see the bees making nests and laying eggs inside!

If this short blogpost has piqued your curiosity about solitary bees, there’s a great article on the Wildlife Trusts website, or you can watch this short documentary:


LSE Bees would like to thank the Sustainable Projects Fund whose generous grant helped us purchase the Solitary Bee Observation Nest Box, as well as LSE Sustainability and the Passfield Hall team who helped install it.

LSE Bees at Freshers’ Fair

Curious about how and why a Central London university has beehives on campus? Or thinking about joining the Beekeeping Society?

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Come and have a chat with us at the LSE Bees Stall at Freshers’ Fair on Thursday Sep 21st, 11 AM – 4 PM. We will be on the 6th floor of the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre. If you’re on Facebook, you can RSVP on our event page and we’ll look out for you!