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Bee research at Reading Museum

Researcher Matthew Allan studying bumblebees in the Study

Researcher Matthew Allan studying bumblebees in the Study

Concern about the well-being of bees is widespread nowadays, so last week Museum staff were delighted to welcome an expert to use our collections in a good cause.

Matthew Allan of Atlantic Pollination Ltd is working with bodies in Europe and North America to frame legislation that will improve protection of both honeybees and wild bees, including bumble bees and solitary bees. Healthy populations of all of these are critical for maintaining natural and farmed habitats.

He explains that ‘…. we need to develop sensitive methods of assessing the impacts of chemicals in the environment on bees. Massive kills are obvious, but we must be able to assess subtle effects, which may include memory loss, slight reduction in lifespan, reduced fecundity – there are all sorts of factors that need to be considered.’

Measuring a bumblebeeThe Museum’s collections provided historical specimens as a baseline from which valid comparisons can be made. In this case Matthew was particularly interested in the size differences between queen, worker and male bumble bees (Bombus terrestris). The inset photo shows how the bees are measured. He told us ‘The information from this day’s visit enables us to move on step closer towards protecting our bees and our environment.’

A great example of the uses of insect collections!

Date updated: 07 Nov 2016

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