Searching for blog posts tagged with 'lasi'

Oatmeal cookies



This recipe makes delicious and satisfying oatmeal cookies that are rich but not too sweet and use 3 bee-related products. Adjust the amount of honey, butter and salt according to taste. Almonds and sunflowers are pollinated by honey bees. Other nuts or seeds can be used according to preference. Any honey will do. There is no need to use an expensive variety with a delicate taste as the baking will overpower this.

Oatmeal cookiesOatmeal cookies


porridge oats, 250g, (2 cups)

flaked almonds, 60g, (1/2 cup)

sunflower seeds, 40g, (1/3 cup)

butter, 100-120g

honey, 120-150g

eggs, 2

salt, half teaspoon 


Mix in bowl, spread flat on a baking tray (c. 24 x 35cm) at c. 6mm depth, bake in oven for approximately 30-35 minutes at 200C until golden brown to dark brown (according to preference), allow to cool, cut into 16-20 pieces.

More honey recipes can be found on the LASI website.

Bee-friendly plants put to the test



Are our favourite garden flowers attractive to hungry visitors such as bees and butterflies?

Gardeners and land managers are increasingly looking for ways to help bees and other pollinators by providing attractive flowers for them to feed on. To do this, they often rely on “pollinator-friendly” plant lists. But these lists are generally based on opinion and experience rather than scientific research.

Now researchers at the University’s Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) have completed one of the first scientific studies to put the business of recommending pollinator-friendly garden flowers on a firmer scientific footing.

close up of two bees feeding

The study’s findings were recently published in the journal Functional Ecology.

The study, led by PhD student Mihail Garbuzov and Prof. Francis Ratnieks and funded by the Body Shop Foundation, involved repeatedly counting flower-visiting insects over two summers as they foraged on 32 popular summer-flowering garden plant varieties in a specially planted experimental garden on campus, with two smaller additional gardens set up in year two to check the generality of the results.

All the plants studied were popular garden plants, widely and easily available for purchase in nuseries and garden centres, and had to flower mainly or exclusively in July/August.

Bees (87 per cent) and hoverflies (nine per cent) were the most frequent visitors, with butterflies and moths just two per cent and all other insects also two per cent. The researchers observed clear differences in the mix of bee and insect types attracted by different varieties.

Honey bee on borage

Some cultivated varieties and non-native flowers – usually seen as ornamental only – can be helpful to wildlife. For example, open dahlias attracted many bees, especially bumblebees, but pom-pom or cactus dahlias attracted few insects, because their highly bred flowers make it difficult for insects to reach the flowers’ pollen and nectar.

Highly bred varieties of lavender, including those of novel colours, such as white or pink, or hybrid lavenders, proved highly attractive to insects. Plants that the researchers can recommend to gardeners include lavender, marjoram, open-flowered dahlias, borage, and Bowles Mauve Everlasting Wallflower.

Marjoram was probably the best all-rounder, attracting honey bees, bumble bees, other bees, hover flies, and butterflies. Borage was the best for honey bees. Lavender and open-flowered dahlias were very attractive to bumblebees. Bowles mauve was the best for butterflies. But all attracted a range of insects. The least attractive flowering plant to insects was the pelargonium – a popular garden plant.

mason bee covered in pollen

But the study clearly showed that planting pollinator-friendly flowers is a no-cost, win-win solution to help the bees. The plants attractive to bees are just as cheap, easy to grow, and as pretty as those that are less attractive to insects. Garden plants do not have to be native to help most pollinating insects. Nectar, for example, is basically sugar and water, and so it is of value to British insects whether it is from a native garden plant or one from another part of the world. Lavender is from the Mediterranean and dahlias are from Mexico.

So helping bees in your garden is a no-brainer. Plant the right flowers and the bees will come!

Visit the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) website.


Photo credit: John Kimbler

Ivy: the last nectar feed before winter...



What's on the Ivy?

Some of you may have seen some people hanging about with clipboards in hand near the wall next to the tunnel at the entrance to the University. This is all to do with a research project looking at how flower visitors speed from one flower to another in a given time frame feeding on/or collecting a valuable sugary energy source. This is called nectar and is produced by plants to attract insects. These insects whilst feeding, will pick up pollen particles from the stamen and transfer the pollen from one flower to another, and so help the plant to reproduce. Some insects also feed on the pollen.

 A feeding wasp by John Kimbler

Now ivy is a common and widespread native British plant that flowers in the autumn. It is in fact the main autumn source of pollen and nectar for flower-visiting insects. Flowers are only produced on mature ivy, which has oval leaves. The well-known five pointed leaves are found on immature ivy, which does not have flowers. The flowers are not showy, and many people are unaware that ivy even has flowers.

This slide show 'Identifying Insects on Ivy Flowers' will help you identify the main types of insects that visit ivy flowers. The most abundant are generally honey bees, social wasps, hover flies, and flies. Bumble bees, other bees, solitary wasps, butterflies generally occur in smaller numbers, or not at all. In southern England you may also see the beautiful ivy bee, which has recently colonized Britain from Europe. It does not live in colonies. Each female builds a small nest in the soil.

 Wasp by John Kimbler

We have also produced a pamphlet with photos of the main types of insects that you can download here and print - Appreciating Ivy and Its Insects

The Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, LASI, is hoping to get the public involved in identifying insects on ivy as a way of monitoring pollinating insects in the UK. 

LASI has been doing research on ivy and the insects that visit its flowers:

In 2011 and 2012 LASI PhD student Mihail Garbuzov and Professor Francis Ratnieks carried out a project in Sussex on ivy and ivy flowers. Ivy blooms in the autumn. This project was published on-line in Insect Conservation & Diversity in April 2013. Although ivy flowers are small and green and not attractive to humans, they produce a lot of pollen and nectar and are very attractive to pollinating insects and attract a wide range of insect types including honey bees, other bees, hover flies, other flies, late season butterflies like the Red Admiral, and wasps. One reason why ivy is so important for pollinating insects is that it is abundant and widespread. We surveyed 20 areas, each 200m by 200m. Flowering ivy was present in 10/10 of the urban areas and 6/10 of the rural areas. At a national scale, ivy is found throughout the UK. The project showed that nearly 90% of the pollen collected by honey bees in the autumn was from ivy. It is also an important source of nectar, and 80% of the honey bee foragers we saw on ivy flowers were collecting nectar not pollen, as they did not have pollen in their baskets.     


Garbuzov, M., Ratnieks, F. L. W. 2013. Ivy: an underappreciated key resource to flower-visiting insects in autumn. Insect Conservation & Diversity (published on line April 2013).

Photo credit: John Kimbler

Wednesday morning coffee and cakes



Researchers down insects for coffee and cakes

With the arrival of two new professors, Prof Dave Goulson and Prof Bill Hughes, specialising in social insects, the number of researchers studying solitary and social insects has grown quite considerable in the last year or so. We are scattered in various locations throughout the School of Life Sciences' John Maynard Smith (JMS) building, and getting to know one another isn't as straight forward as it could be. So, to help remedy this situation we decided to meet every Wednesday morning in the JMS tea room on the 4th floor, to have a civilised session of coffee, tea and cakes.

Halloween cupcakes

At the end of October it was LASI's turn to provide the delicacies to be savoured that morning. Much baking and buying took place as we prepared our offering to bring to the table. There were macaroons, a carrot cake, mini mince pies, chocolate chip cookies, halloween cupcakes and a chocolate cake too.

Tom preparing cakes




plate of halloween cupcakes


carrot cake


Choc chip cookies

As usual it was a good turn-out with around 30 participants. This included some of the Life Sciences' technicians who also sampled the baked goods. It is usually a stimulating and noisy half hour where the debates aren't necessarily focussed on our beloved insects.

Social Insect Coffee morning


Social Insect Coffee morning

The coffee mornings do, however, foster good relationships amongst the members of the various research groups, getting everyone to know what projects are taking place, and perhaps offering some food for thought and new ideas.

To find out more about who we are and what we study, take a look at the links below:

Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects

Prof Dave Goulson's research lab

Prof Bill Hughes' research lab

Prof Jeremy Field's research lab