Meet the pollinators: bees

3 in 4 crop plants depend on pollination. But the bee population is declining in the UK. At Kew Gardens and Wakehurst, we’re very interested in protecting our bees and support research on their biology and behaviour.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Studying bees at Kew and Wakehurst by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

What is pollination?

Pollination is what keeps plants alive and propagating. It involves pollen grain going from the stamen (the male part of the flower) to the stigma and egg (the female part of the flower). Pollinators like bees help our food plants grow and keep our gardens blooming.

 

Meet the pollinators: bees by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Combating declining numbers

Approximately 75% of crops need pollination. Pollinators of all kinds – including bees – are declining in the wild. This could have a severe impact on agricultural productivity and adversely impact human welfare. At Kew we are using science to find solutions. 

 

Conserving bees at Wakehurst by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Bee healthy

Our gardens have nearly 30,000 different kinds of plants and decades of experience in phytochemical research. One of our projects unravels the role of plant chemistry in bee health. We are characterising chemical compounds in pollen and nectar of major UK pollinator plants.

Bees and caffeine by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Using bee-friendly science

We are testing the effects of nectar and pollen compounds on bee diseases. We’re also studying the interaction of plant compounds, the bee microbiome, and bee parasites, and identifying plants and plant compounds that can improve pollinator health in the UK.

Studying bee nutrition by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

A bee-autiful diet

In another project we are extending our research on bee nutrition by using naturally sourced nutrients from pollen and royal jelly to identify how bees regulate protein and lipids in their diets. We examine diets that meet the honeybee’s needs for essential nutrients.

 

Tracking bees at Kew Gardens by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Studying bees

Our research and partnerships have helped us gain new insights into bee behaviour and we've conducted many studies. Ecologists attached a tiny tracker onto a bee and monitored bee behaviour. 

Bees are like teddy bears! by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Hive at Kew by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Hive

17 metres tall, The Hive is a breathtaking installation in the heart of a wildflower meadow. It recreates life inside a beehive.

Pollination Garden at Wakehurst by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Bees at Wakehurst

At Wakehurst we partner with The Sussex Plan for Honeybee Health and Wellbeing. We have a research facility, bee garden and observation hives. We aim to breed disease-resistant honeybees and study the impact of stress factors. We also monitor bee pests and pathogens. 

Bees at Kew by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Bees knees: fun fact about bees

Honeybees can travel up to 14km from the hive to find nectar. They communicate by dancing. They do a peculiar ‘round dance’ that signals that there is a pollen-rich area nearby. The ‘waggle dance’ helps them tell each other how to get there. 

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