Master and Mistress Cutler visit to the Department of Computer Science

Master and Mistress Cutler visit the Department of Computer ScienceStaff from the Department of Computer Science were delighted to welcome the Master and Mistress Cutler to the University and show them the Department’s apiary. The visit involved everyone getting kitted up in bee suits, looking at the bees in their hive, and learning how the bees are contributing to research being carried out in the Department.

The computer science bees are an essential part of the Brains on Board project and are helping researchers to further understand honeybee navigation and cognition. Researchers hope to reproduce their navigation behaviours on computational hardware in virtual environments and to develop flying robot platforms that replicate the sensory capabilities and flight dynamics of the honeybee.

The research will deliver substantial impact, from basic understanding of brains to development of robotics and autonomous systems technologies which will establish a clear lead for UK science, engineering, and technology in these areas. As well as basic research advances, these developments will lead to new technological and economic opportunities in robotics and artificial intelligence, computational intelligence, insect neuroscience, and the neuroscience community in general. It is hoped that the data collected during this research project will help other scientists who are looking at bee population decline and provide insights into bee behaviour.

The bees are looked after by Neville Dearden who has over 50 years experience of beekeeping. Although the primary aim of the apiary is to nurture bees that will be used in research, a welcome byproduct is honey which can be found on sale at the Students Union shop!

As a beekeeper Neville is concerned about threats to bees including disease, pests, and the use of pesticides. It has been all over the news that honeybee populations have been in drastic decline in recent years, and scientists don’t have a single good answer for the phenomenon. This is bad news for the world since honeybees are known to be crucial for pollination and hence for the world’s food security, as approximately one third of our food requires pollination.

Neville is also engaged in breeding local bees for the bee keeping community in the surrounding area. It is now recognised that bees reared locally are the most resilient to the aforementioned threats.

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Further information
Brains on Board project