Scientists face a great challenge in educating the public about what they do and, most importantly, why they do it. Engaging the wider world is incredibly important, particularly when scientific research requires societal understanding and buy-in to be at its most effective.
Not long ago, Trinity College Dublin launched a Campus Pollinator Plan – the first of its kind in Ireland – to help bees and other pollinators survive and thrive. To propagate the message, and hopefully inspire other institutions to follow suit, we came up with a plan to engage and inspire our staff, students, and visitors via social media.
We asked for help in naming our queen bee – our black-and-yellow matriarch – who has been sitting (and working) atop her honeycomb throne in a newly installed campus beehive for the past few months. We hoped we would receive a good few suggestions.
We were blown away by the response, as over the course of the 28-day competition hundreds of ideas came flooding in. Not just from Trinity-affiliated individuals, but from people based in Dublin, Cork, Belfast, and from far further afield again. We had entries from Thailand, Germany, and Brazil, as bee-lovers sent us their suggestions from over 20 countries around the globe.
Some were weird and some were wonderful. Some came with a detailed explanation behind them. All of them came from people engaging with the wider research taking place here, and in Ireland. We also put together a series of #pollinatorfacts that contained one nugget of interesting info a day, and people loved them. As a societal awareness campaign, it was a huge success.
So which name was chosen? Last Friday, we officially crowned ‘Queen Medb’.
The panel behind the choice had a tough time whittling the options down, but chose Medb for three main reasons: Medb was a strong female leader prominent in old Irish mythology, Medb is said to mean ‘she who intoxicates’, and Mebh has the same roots as the English word ‘mead’ – a drink made from honey.
Given that our queen must be strong in body and spirit (she may lead up to 60,000 bees at some point), will use biological chemicals to influence the decisions of her colony, and will oversee the production of honey, this seemed the right choice. Dublin resident Cormac McMullan was randomly selected from those who suggested the name, and wins a copy of The Bee Book and the first jar of harvested honey for his efforts.
Some honourable mentions that were very closely considered included Beelizabeth, Melissa (Greek for honey bee), (Royal) Tara, Polly(nator), Fódla (Irish goddess), Trinibee and Beeram Stoker, while other popular ideas included Beeyonce, Bee McBeeface, and HoneyComber McGregor.
We now hope Queen Medb’s reign will be long and prosperous, and that Trinity’s Campus Pollinator Plan will be the first of many that take off, both in Ireland and abroad.
Thomas Deane is the press officer for the Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, Trinity College Dublin.