Allotments best for bees: Great British Bee Count results

28th October 2014
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release

Allotments are providing the best habitat for bees while parks and roadsides need improving, warns a leading bee expert following the results of the first-ever Great British Bee Count published today by Friends of the Earth, Buglife and B&Q. 

More than 23,000 people around the UK used a free smartphone app to log their sightings of 832,000 bees during the 12-week citizen science project this summer. The organisers developed the survey to help build a broader picture of the health of bees, including especially vulnerable wild species for which there is currently no good data.

Scientists warn that the overall picture for British bees is one of serious decline, with 71 of our 267 species under threat and more than 20 already extinct, and stress the importance of maintaining a wide diversity of bees in order to cross-pollinate many fruits and vegetables.

Selected trends from The Great British Bee Count 2014:  

  • Allotments won the prize for type of habitat where the most numbers of bees were seen per count: an average of 12 compared to countryside (10), garden (8), school grounds (7), park (7) and roadside (4).
  • Yellow and black bumblebees were the most spotted type of bee in all regions: 304,857 sightings. This category includes some of our most common bee species: buff-tailed bumblebee, garden bumblebee and white-tailed bumblebee.
  • Honey bees were the second most-seen in all regions (193,837 sightings) with 42% seen in rural areas, 30% in suburbs and 28% in urban areas. This could change next year due to a rise in urban beekeeping.
  • The tree bumblebee was the third most-spotted, with 69,369 sightings and of these ginger-tufted bees found nesting in bird boxes. This highly adaptable species arrived in southern England from mainland Europe in 2001 – this year’s count shows it has now spread throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Full survey results and tips on how people can help bees at greatbritishbeecount.co.uk.

Bumblebee expert Professor Dave Goulson, author of A Sting In the Tale, said:

“It’s wonderful that so many people are taking time to look more closely at the hardworking bees in their area and learn about these fascinating species.

“This year’s Great British Bee Count highlights the importance of allotments in providing essential habitat for the bees that pollinate all those tasty home-grown fruit and veg – and shows that parks and road verges could be a lot better for bees, with less mowing and more wildflowers.”

Friends of the Earth, the Women’s Institute, farmers and scientists are calling for the Government’s national strategy to protect bees and pollinators – due this autumn – to be significantly improved to tackle the root causes of bee decline, including supporting farmers to cut pesticide use and creating more bee-friendly habitat in public spaces and new developments.

Friends of the Earth’s Senior Nature Campaigner Paul De Zylva said:

“It’s great that so many people are making allotments and gardens bee-friendly by growing the right kind of plants, but we need to ensure rural areas and towns are also habitat-rich so bees can move freely.

“The Government must improve its National Pollinator Strategy to tackle all the threats bees face, especially from pesticides and a lack of habitat on farms and new developments.”

Experts believe the mild winter created good weather conditions for bees to thrive this summer, compared to the two preceding cold winters that caused honeybees to suffer. However, extreme floods earlier this year will have affected ground-nesting bumblebees along with other wildlife.

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.

“Bees are vital to keep 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.”

As winter approaches, bees may still be seen by flowering plants like ivy, enjoying a ‘last supper’ before becoming more dormant. People can do their bit for bees this autumn by protecting ivy until it’s finished flowering and planting perennials, bulbs and shrubs to ensure bees have something to eat in spring when they emerge from hibernation.

ENDS

Notes to editors 

1. The Great British Bee Count ran from 10 June to 31 August 2014. 23,732 people spotted 832,110 bees in a total of 99,854 separate counts. Full results including regional breakdown available. Friends of the Earth hopes to run The Great British Bee Count annually so that over time comparable data can help to answer key questions about bee health.

2. Friends of the Earth is talking to scientific data experts at the National Biodiversity Network about how submitting information from The Great British Bee Count on the NBN Gateway, where it could be used to help boost knowledge of where different species are thriving or may be thin on the ground.

3. Friends of the Earth is calling for the Government’s National Pollinator Strategy to protect bees and other pollinators, due this autumn, to be strengthened to address the root causes of bee decline. That means providing the right policy framework and incentives to ensure that:

• conditions for bees are improved on our farmland and farmers are supported to cut pesticide use
• our most important bee habitats such as ancient meadows are properly protected and managed
• new development provides new space for bees and pollinators

4. Friends of the Earth has led the campaign to save British bees and other pollinators since launching its Bee Cause campaign in April 2012, which convinced the Government to introduce a national Bee Action Plan (National Pollinator Strategy) by building a coalition of more than 200 MPs, businesses such as B&Q and the Co-operative, the Women’s Institute and over 70,000 individuals. www.foe.co.uk/bees

5. Make your garden wildlife friendly with B&Q’s tips on planting.

6. Create shelter for bees in your garden using Friends of the Earth’s free guide ‘how to make a bee hotel.

If you’re a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.

Published by Friends of the Earth Trust