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Wild Honey Bee Research

By December 28, 2023No Comments

Galway university ‘buzzing’ after bee research team given support

Kate McMahon

The University of Galway bee research team has been ‘buzzing’ after receiving a swarm of support from Nottingham University.

The green light given from the University of Northampton’s science department aided the research team in their study of rare insects.

The study focuses on their adaption and survival in unique forest habitats in Britain and its application to sustainable beekeeping.

The wild honey bees are important as they help produce the next generation of plants including fruits and crops we eat.

Deep freeze for the bees

The University of Galway research team being led by Prof. Grace McCormack, went to Boughton Estate Forests in Northampton as part of the research project to compare the DNA of bees kept in hives to wild bees.

After collecting bees, they needed help with the freezing samples and to prevent deterioration of the bees’ DNA.

They were given urgently-needed, cold storage equipment and expertise to ensure the samples were safely transported back to Galway for testing.

The research will be carried out over 90 British colonies, at several different sites including Boughton and Blenheim.

There will also be an assessment of the diversity of the colony; the extent of hybridisation; and population dynamics.

Bee survival

Research assistant with the University of Galway Honey Bee Research Centre, Chiara Binetti said:

“Survival under natural selection and adaptation of free-living bees in old UK forests is currently being investigated, thanks to collaboration between beekeepers and scientists.

“This might be the key to unlocking their secrets and potential, and possibly inform more sustainable bee keeping.”

Senior lecturer in molecular bioscience, Dr. Alexandra Woodacre, participated in the research project with the University of Galway.

She said:

“Bees play such a key role in shaping our natural environment and contributing to food security and this project is really exciting and should find out how diverse honey bees really are.”

Beekeepers at the three different research study locations have been helping wild honeybees in their natural environment, including through the creation of nest sites for wild colonies using log hives.

The Galway campus will be buzzing this year as they have introduced a log hive on campus.

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