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Gardeners at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, are working with scientists to create an army of trained bees to help grow strawberries effectively.

Strawberry plants are difficult to pollinate naturally, so the idea of the project, which has been initially successful at Newcastle University, is to help gardeners improve their naturally-grown fruits by pollinating them successfully.

Students interested in Biology and Biological Natural Sciences can look more into the science of pollination, why strawberries are particularly difficult to pollinate, and how this relates to genetics.

The scientists have extracted the scent of the strawberry plant using a pump and a plastic bag to trap it in a filter. The bees are rewarded with sugary nectar each time a spritz of the scent is sprayed. Professor Geraldine Wright said that the intention is to associate the flower’s scent with the food they receive, forming a strong lasting memory which will attract them to the strawberry flowers in the wild.

Students interested in Psychology can look more into this method of training bees and other animals.

Scientists have acknowledged that part of the reason that strawberry plants are struggling to thrive is because of the marked decrease in the bee population. This decrease is partly due to pesticides. Chemistry student should look into the chemical properties of pesticides and what makes them harmful to animals such as bees, while Human Sciences and Geography students should look into the effect that humans have on the natural growth of plants such as strawberries. Earth Sciences students could look into other reasons that both bees and strawberry plants might be struggling, such as global warming.

Tune in to BBC 2’s ‘Kew on a Plate’ on the 23rd March to find out more about this project.

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