You’ve probably read a lot of articles in the last year about colony collapse disorder—sudden massive bee hive die-offs. There are a number of different theories about the problem (although nothing has been agreed upon yet), including pesticide use, fungal infection, and disease. What many of the stories have failed to note, however, is that bee populations were in trouble before the disorder made headlines.
In the UK, it is estimated that 97% of wildflower meadows have disappeared in the past 60 years and some 20 species of bees have gone extinct. To get a better idea of which bee populations are currently struggling and which ones are thriving, researchers want you to participate in The Great British Bee Count.
Don’t worry, actually poking around in a hive isn’t required. All you need to do is record when and where you see a bee, either using your phone or tablet, with free apps available for either iOS or Android. You’ll be shown a number of bee species, asked to move a slider under the right picture to indicate how many you saw, and then note the habitat (e.g., garden, park), and rough location (e.g., whether you’re in Abderdeenshire or East Sussex). Project organizers are hoping you’ll record bees whenever you see them over the summer. Don’t have a smart phone or tablet? No problem. You can access the “Seen a bee?” link on your desktop computer.
You can also help conserve bees by planting a lavender border, starting a “bee cafe,” (planting a garden for bees), sow wildflower seeds, or build a “bee hotel” for solitary bees and wasps.
As Professor Dave Goulson notes, “The Great British Bee Count is a great excuse to get outside in the sunshine and watch bees going about their business.”