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How do we rely on the natural environment?

All of our food production relies on the ‘services’ provided by the natural environment, be they fresh water, healthy soil, natural pest and disease control or pollination. In planning our future food system we need to protect and enhance such ‘ecosystem services’. Bees are major pollinators, but what is their role in the growing cycle? About one third of the world’s crops is dependent on bees as pollinators. Some tomato growers even put bumblebee colonies inside the greenhouse for more efficient pollination.

Did you know that…

  • Although there are 20,000 species of bees, there is only one species of honey bee in the UK.
  • There are up to 50,000 bees in a hive - that is twice as many bees in a hive as people living in Stratford!
  • Honey bees fly up to 5 miles from the hive to forage for flowers and food. Imagine a little bee flying every day from Coventry to Kenilworth.
  • It takes over 150 trips to a flower or tree to make just one teaspoon of honey. One teaspoon of honey melts in tea in few seconds.


We are undertaking research on bees in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick:

One of our most important pollinators, the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, faces serious threats from parasitic diseases, especially the varroa mite. We are investigating new solutions to honey bee diseases. We also do basic research on the interactions between honey bees and their parasites.

Biological control of the Varroa mite

Honey bee genomics

Samik Datta was recently interviewed by BBC Coventry and Warwickshire on his modelling work on bee diseases in Jersey and its potential benefits for reversing the global population decline in bees.



The BBC Radio 4 programme on 3rd November 'The Living World' featured the ivy bee. A relative newcomer to the UK, it was first recorded on British shores in 2001. The ivy bee seems to be bucking the trend of general decline in bee populations and spreading northwards as its range expands.