Science

How an app could help reverse the decline of bees

It's super easy to get involved. Think Pokemon Go but with bees and more science.

Smartphone users can turn their device into a mini science lab by downloading a new app to record how many bees they see.

The Great British Bee Count is like Pokemon Go – except with more bees and added science.

It’s been put together by Friends Of The Earth and as fun as it is to go bee spotting, there’s a serious part to the app too. It will help inform academic work as it identifies trends in bee numbers.

Data obtained through the count will be used to help decide actions which could reverse bee decline while verified sightings will be shared with ecologists and researchers via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Combined with information from other bee surveys the results will help directly inform government policies and decisions.

It’s the fourth year of the GBBC and it relies on smartphone users getting involved. In 2016, 15,000 spotters recorded 383,759 bees across the UK. Since the GBBC restarted on May 19 more than 39,000 bees have been seen.

You don’t need to be an expert to go bee spotting. There’s images in the app to help you work out what you’ve seen, be it a bumblebee, honey bee or solitary bee. Sixteen bees are featured in the app.

A bee buzzes around a daffodil
(Owen Humphreys/PA)

To take part, users can choose between a timed count or a more ad hoc fashion, noting down when a bee has been spotted.

Pictures can be shared on social media to flag up a find and the results on #GreatBritishBeeCount are fab.

Spotters also get asked questions about what the weather was like when the bee was seen and the habitat.

The GPS in the phone pinpoints a spotter’s location although users can opt to just give a postcode. The associated map on the Friends of The Earth website updates in real time.

Since 1900 the UK has lost around 13 species of bee. A further 35 are considered under threat of extinction.

Screenshot from the Great British Bee Count App from Friends Of The Earth
(Screenshot/Great British Bee Count)

Before you get started, a warning: bee spotting is particularly addictive. The more bees you spot, the more you want to count.

The app also includes tips about how to improve your own garden or outdoor space to make it more bee friendly.

The app is available on the App Store and Google Play. The count runs until June 30.

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