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Sex, Drugs and Ecosystem Services: with Prof Phil Stevenson

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Sex, Drugs and Ecosystem Services: the paradox of plant toxins in nectar

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About Phil: Phil is Head of Trait Diversity and Function at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew where he leads research on plant and fungal characters that can support conservation, increase resilience to global change, and have potential uses and benefits for human health and well-being. Plants and fungi hold the key to addressing many of the challenges facing the natural world. But there is still much we do not know about the properties that have enabled them to survive in challenging environments. The specific suite of characteristics and properties of a species – its ‘traits’ – can reveal how it has adapted to particular environments, and how resilient it may be to future change. Understanding these traits, their function and how they have evolved, will enable us to better conserve plants and fungi, and identify species we can use sustainably and equitably for the benefit of humankind.

Phil’s Research and Talk: Phil’s own research has focussed on pollen and nectar and especially the natural plant produced toxins that occur there and their role in driving pollinator behaviour, health and ecology of bees. Ultimately, we think these toxins help optimise pollination for the plant and sometimes may be at the expense of the pollinator – but they can also have some surprising benefits and uses. During Phil’s talk he will present examples of this work including on nectar caffeine and its memory enhancing effects for bees, the medicinal properties of Ling heather and sainfoin nectar for bumble bees, how rhododendron toxins help filter out the preferred flower visitors, why we should rein in beekeeping bees in big cities and will even propose an explanation about why we find dead bees under lime trees in the summer.

Phil also holds a professorship in plant chemistry at the Natural Resources Institute (University of Greenwich) and is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society.

Phil’s research has been reported frequently by the press e.g.,

https://www.discoverwildlife.com/news/saving-heather-could-help-wild-bees/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49977867

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/24/this-only-saves-honeybees-the-trouble-with-britains-beekeeping-boom-aoe

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-9831581/Bees-learn-better-jolt-caffeine-laced-nectar-study-finds.html

Phil’s research is published in more than 150 international journal articles, books and books chapters including recent papers in Science, Current Biology and Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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Organiser Somerset Beekeepers' Association

Organiser of Sex, Drugs and Ecosystem Services: with Prof Phil Stevenson

Somerset Beekeepers’ Association (SBKA) was set up in 1906 to advance the craft of apiculture and to promote general awareness and understanding of honeybees and holds true to its founding principles today.

SBKA is a registered charity, has around 950 members and is made up of 12 affiliated Divisions. The volunteer-run organisation is governed by a Council consisting of elected officers and delegates representing all Divisions. SBKA is affiliated to the British Beekeepers’ Association.

We provide training, promote best practice and offer advice, support and education to beekeepers and the public.

Over the years our members have made – and continue to make - an impressive contribution to British beekeeping at both national and county level.

We are the voice of Somerset’s beekeepers and honeybees!

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