The researchers were joined for breakfast by Ainsley Harriott, the presenter of Ready Steady Cook!
They had bread and honey as they discussed the decline of the British bee at the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI).
Harriott is preparing a BBC TV series about British food and heard why so little of the honey we eat is actually made by bees in Britain.
He said: “We’re going to be looking at British produce that’s threatened and bringing it to people’s attention.”
Harriott enjoyed LASI-produced honey during his breakfast with Professor of Apiculture Francis Ratnieks, researchers Dr Margaret Couvillon and Dr Karin Alton and the LASI student team.
His crew then filmed the observation hives in the lab.
Professor Ratnieks said: “About 100 years ago we might have provided half of the honey we used, but now it’s just 10 per cent.”
His team is trying to help revive honey bee populations by identifying the best flowers for bees to forage on and by investigating whether a lack of the right flowers is contributing to honey bee decline.
Professor Ratnieks and the LASI team’s honey bee research – collectively known as the Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health and Well Being – includes projects such as breeding disease-resistant “hygienic” honey bees, decoding waggle dances to determine where honey bees forage and helping the honey bee and insect pollinators in urban areas.
Harriott said: “As soon as I walked in I noticed the positive energy and the passion there is here for everything about bees.
“It’s a little bit of bee heaven – sharing a honey breakfast with the next generation of bee scientists.
“With LASI on their side, we might not need to worry about the honey bee after all.”
As part of the programme, Harriott will be cooking up a few honey-based treats.
He said: “Let’s do our best to save British honey bees.
“We want to make people more aware of where their produce comes from when they walk down the aisle of the supermarket.
“Its place of origin should be as important as checking the label for calories or additives.”
Bees are important as pollinators of food crops as well as producers of honey, and their biology and behaviour are just as important to scientific inquiry.
Harriott’s programme The Great British Food Revival begins its run in January on BBC 2.
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