Science blog

12 July 2013

A bee-friendly British Library on the horizon…

On the evening of 26 June, the British Library was abuzz with discussion of issues surrounding the plight of the humble bee. This was our 21st event in the Science Team’s popular café scientifique series, TalkScience. “Pollinators and pesticides: is there a plan bee?” brought together scientists, policymakers and representatives from industry, along with the general public (many of them beekeepers), for a lively debate about the pressures facing bees and other wild insect pollinators.

British_Library_logo_and_honeybeeBee and pesticide discussions held at the British Library. Bee image © photo Eric Isselée.

BBC presenter and beekeeper, Bill Turnbull, chaired the panel comprising Dr David Aston (British Beekeepers Association), Dr Peter Campbell (Syngenta) and Dr Lynn Dicks (University of Cambridge), who expressed a diverse range of views on the decline of insect pollinators and the effects of pesticides on bees. While some research suggests pesticides do have a detrimental effect on bee populations, the issue, as we heard, is far from clear-cut; land-use, diseases and poor weather conditions also contribute to the decline in numbers.

Introducing_TalkScience21_panel.Pollinators_and_pesticides_v2. Lee-Ann Coleman (British Library science team) introduces the panel. L-R: Bill Turnbull (BBC), David Aston (BBKA), Lynn Dicks (University of Cambridge) and Peter Campbell (Syngenta). Photo: Peter Warner

The BBC Horizon team filmed the event as part of an upcoming programme on demystifying the issues impacting bees.  As well as highlighting the discussion from various experts to demonstrate the complexity of the issue, they wanted to reflect public concern for the plight of the bee. The BBC Horizon programme, which will likely contain clips from our TalkScience event, will be broadcast on Friday 2 August at 21.00, after Springwatch.

BBC_Horizon_filming_TalkScience21_panel.Pollinators_and_pesticidesTalkScience being filmed for the first time by BBC Horizon. Photo: Peter Warner

As a result of this TalkScience event, the Science Team is exploring how to make the British Library more bee-friendly. Please let us know about success stories from other public or city buildings that have made a bee-friendly transition, whether it’s planting more flowers or hosting hives of their own. And we'll report back on our own experiences.


The bee boleA potential idea of how to use books as solitary bee homes at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photo: Alec Finlay

Following on from TalkScience, lively discussion continues via the blog posting of beekeeper Emily Heath, who attended the event. Lynn Dicks, one of our panellists, also summarised her four key action points to protect bees and other wind insect pollinators after TalkScience, and in preparation for the Bee Summit.

Audience members discussing pollinators and pesticides during the TalkScience interval. Photo: Peter Warner.

The event was organised by the Science Team with significant contribution from our PhD student intern, Stuart Smith. Stuart has spent three months with us through a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded policy placement. Next week read about his un-bee-lievable placement at the British Library.

Stuart Smith and Johanna Kieniewicz


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