© 2012 Francis L W Ratnieks University of Sussex (LASI)

As the UK’s favourite honey brand, it goes without saying that we love honey bees! However, we believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to give something back to these wonderful creatures that do so much for us. Did you know that bees pollinate one third of the fruit and veg you eat? You’ve probably heard that honey bees have been having a tough time lately, but there’s lots that you can do yourself to help them. Have a look at our About Bees page for some top tips. Here is a bit about what we do at Rowse to help save the honey bee.

Honey bee colony numbers having dramatically reduced in the UK over the past 50 years. Whilst there are likely to be several reasons for the decline in numbers of honey bees, the two main reasons are bee disease and a lack of food for honey bees to forage on.

© 2013 Francis L W Ratnieks University of Sussex (LASI)

Here at Rowse Honey, we are passionate about looking after the health of honey bees in order to protect this wonderful creature. For nearly 5 years we’ve been the headline sponsor of the Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health & Well-Being, which is being carried out in the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) at Sussex University. The research scheme is led by honey bee guru Professor. Francis Ratnieks, the UK’s only Professor of Apiculture (which means beekeeping, to you and I!).

The funding we have donated to LASI has been used in several research areas. One is looking into a form of natural defence for honey bees against diseases called “hygienic behaviour”. Only some honey bees exhibit this behaviour and it has been found to be in their genes, passed on by their mother (the queen bee!). LASI research has shown that this bee behaviour reduces the build-up in the hive of two significant honey bee pests and diseases, the varroa mite and the deformed wing virus. The valuable knowledge that LASI have developed will help beekeepers nationwide to breed more “hygienic” bees, therefore effectively helping honey bees kill off disease in the hive by themselves, giving them a better chance at survival.

© 2013 Francis L W Ratnieks University of Sussex (LASI)

The other main area of research is understanding which plants and flowers bees like to forage on the most. If we can understand this, we can try to plant more of the food that bees like, which will help them to survive. Some of the bees’ favourite nectar sources exist in natural hedgerows and patches of wild plants and flowers. As more and more gardens become manicured, lawns become mown and hedgerows get dug up to make room for agriculture, bees are finding it more and more difficult to find the nectar they like most. If you want to help bees yourself, Francis and the team at LASI have found that there are certain plants that bees particularly like to feed on. These include;

Marjoram, which attracts all sort of insects from honey bees and bumblebees to butterflies and hover flies. It’s a herb that tastes delicious when added to soups or stews!

Dahlias, which often have open flowers and produce a lot of pollen, which honey bees and other insects love.

Lavender, which attracts mainly bumble bees but also honey bees, other bees, butterflies and hover flies

Borage, an annual plant which grows very quickly from seed, is particularly attractive to honey bees but also to bumble bees and other bees.