Interview – Dr Jeff Davey

To gather first hand information on bee conservation we met with Dr Jeff Davey who is a research technician from UWE. He takes care of honey bee hives that are located on campus grounds as well as hives on his allotment. Jeff also works with school children to teach them about bees using various methods that range from live demos to having children play act being bees. He creates videos for them and told us that he usually keeps them short as children sometimes have a shorter attention span. Another method he uses is having the children make models of a hives contents to get hands on experience with the hive, which is usually an intangible experience for them. The information that he gave us was helpful in understanding  not only bee conservation but how to make learning fun for children in primary schools.

Jeff loves teaching people and is very open to allowing people to get involved with his work. He will take down the names of people that are interested in the hives and will send out emails when he will be opening up the hive for its routine maintenance. Being able to give live demonstrations to people that are interested is a great way of getting people to learn about the hive and subsequently become more knowledgeable about conservation.

We spoke with Jeff about the issue of habitat loss and he said that while honey bee numbers are strong due to concentrated honey farming many other types of bees were in trouble. We learned that solitary bees make up the majority of bee species in the UK and due to development of land they are struggling to survive and numbers are dwindling.

How to help?

We asked Jeff what starting a hive entails and he said that a starter hive would cost around £150, you need to find a swarm, attend a short course, or get neighbour approval if it is on public land. All of this is relatively simple and easy to do if you want to keep bees as a hobby but it could be daunting to those that don’t want the responsibility. While there are schemes like adopt-a-hive we wanted to give children a hands on experience with cultivating habitats for bees. Bug hotels are one great way to create homes for bees and they can be relatively cheap and easy to make.

Jeff told us that in order to help bees people could be encouraged to create more ‘wild’ spaces but simply allowing patches of garden to grow wild. He also mentioned that lots of types of flowers help from native to types that bloom year-around. Inspired by his suggestions we thought that a great experiment would be for people to see what species of insect their ‘wild patch’ would attract.

As well as advocating for more wild spaces it would be hugely beneficial to create ‘rivers’ of flowers to give ‘bees safe routes in urban spaces’ which is what River of Flowers aims to do.

Virtual Hive

One of the great ideas Jeff had was to regularly take photos of the hive and have them turned into a ‘virtual hive’. Children could then explore the inside of the hive using a tablet or smartphone. He said that this would be a great way of educating children as well as being useful for tracking how many bees are in the hive, or if there have been any changes between visits.

We discussed created a virtual hive and what that would look like and Jeff drew a rough design out for us:

hive sketch

Having a simple way to show the data would make it much easier for children to understand and follow.

Putting a camera or sensor inside of the hive would not be a possibility as bees cover anything inside the hive (from dead rodents to computer gear) with tree sap. This was vital information on how bees deal with foreign objects placed inside the hive, and something that we would have otherwise missed.

City Hive

Following on from the virtual hive we came up with the idea of creating a City Hive that collates data from various bee hives in Bristol and creates a virtual ‘city hive’. This would be a way of representing bee populations and health as well as teaching children how they can help. We thought that if children could readily see the impact of their actions to the bee population as a whole they would be more excited about the positive changes they can make.

Our target age

Meeting with Jeff was incredibly helpful as it meant we were able to pick our target age range. He suggested that children of around 10 are a great audience as they are old enough to understand more complex information and young enough to still be engaged with the subject matter. He also said that if children of that age (or younger) do not connect with nature then they are less likely to care about envionmental issues as adults.

They are also a great age group to use technology to engage, as although they have short attention spans, they love using technology.

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