Yellow and black bumblebees have been the most common species seen by people logging bee sightings for The Great British Bee Count this summer, using a smartphone app developed by Friends of the Earth, Buglife and B&Q, interim results released last week reveal.
More than 23,000 people around the UK have spotted 800,000 bees since the June launch of the citizen science project, which aims to help scientists build a nationwide picture of bee health, as part of the organisations' work to reverse the severe decline in numbers of bees over the past few decades.
More than 20 UK bee species are already extinct and about a quarter of the remaining 267 species are at risk.
With just ten days until The Great British Bee Count ends on 31 August, organisers are today urging people to download the free app at http://greatbritishbeecount.co.uk/ to learn more about these iconic species and how to help them.
Selected findings from The Great British Bee Count:
The survey so far shows some interesting trends. Friends of the Earth hopes to make The Great British Bee Count an annual event so that over time comparable data can help to answer key questions about bee health.
• Yellow and black bumblebees have been the most spotted type of bee in all regions: 239,861 sightings. This category includes the buff-tailed bumblebee, the garden bumblebee and the white-tailed bumblebee – some of our most common bee species.
• Honey bees are the second most spotted in all regions: 131,853 sightings. Almost a third of people who took part reported seeing honey bees – and 86% of these sightings were in gardens. This could be due to a rise in urban beekeeping that means foraging honeybees are seeking nectar and pollen in gardens.
• The tree bumblebee has been creating a buzz, with 68,963 sightings and many people sending photos of these ginger tufted bees nesting in bird boxes. Originally from mainland Europe, this species was first seen in southern England in 2001. We'd like to know how far north this bee has travelled, so please log a sighting when you see one.
• By far the most bees were spotted in gardens (447,291) followed by the countryside (35,458), other (32,061), parks (22,613), roadside (18,129), school grounds (12,183) and allotments (9,804). The accessibility of gardens makes them ideal for bee spotting, but it's encouraging to see how many people have recorded bee sightings when out and about.
• People in the North West and Scotland seem to be the keenest bee spotters, with 74,120 and 68,646 sightings. With 10 days left until the Great British Bee Count ends, people in other regions – South (65,860), Yorkshire (39,619), East (57,030), West Midlands (52,217), London (44,059), South West (30,144), North East and Cumbria (29,549), East Midlands (25,509), Wales (24,178), West (20,057), South East (19,773), East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire (18,539), Northern Ireland (7,420), Channel Islands (819) – still have time to get on the leader board.
Experts believe the mild winter has created good weather conditions for bees to thrive this summer, compared to the two preceding cold winters that caused honeybees to suffer. However, the extreme floods in many areas earlier this year will have affected ground-nesting bumblebees along with other wildlife. There is currently no good data on wild bees.
Friends of the Earth's Senior Nature Campaigner Paul De Zylva said:
"It's wonderful to see so many people becoming bee-spotters this summer and learning more about these fascinating species using the Great British Bee Count app.
"If you're on holiday, looking for something to do with the kids, or out and about this weekend, download the free app and see what bees you can spot – there are only 10 days left of this year's survey!
"It's encouraging that more and more people seem to be making their gardens bee-friendly by growing the right kind of plants throughout the year, but because bees need habitat everywhere in order to move around, we need to ensure that rural areas and towns are also rich in habitat.
"People around the country are doing their bit for bees – we hope the Government will do its bit too by improving its upcoming National Pollinator Strategy so that it fully tackles all the threats bees face, especially from pesticide use and a lack of habitat on farms and new developments."
This month, look out for bees around plants like mint, heather and sunflowers.
Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at B&Q, Matthew Sexton, said:
"We've been concerned for many years about declining bee health, which is why we work closely with Friends of the Earth.
"We know how vital bees are to keeping our gardens and countryside healthy and there's lots gardeners can do, with our help, to support hungry bees, such as growing bee-friendly plants and starting a bee café."