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Grow a few weeds and help Britain’s bees, say wildlife experts as Friends of the Earth’s Great British Bee Count begins

news release
  • New poll shows 57% of people prepared to allow weeds and longer grass to grow to help wildlife
  • The fifth annual Great British Bee Count launches today (17 May). Sign up now at 
  • Thousands of verified bee sightings will contribute to new government Pollinator Monitoring Scheme

Wildlife and gardening experts are calling on the public to grow weeds to help Britain’s bees, as a new Friends of the Earth survey, published today (17 May), reveals that 57% of people would allow their garden to grow wilder – for example by letting weeds and wildflowers grow or allowing patches of grass to grow longer – if it could help bees and other wildlife.

The call for wildlife-friendly gardening coincides with the start of Friends of the Earth’s Great British Bee Count (17 May-30 June), which is being supported by the gardening experts: Kate Bradbury, Val Bourne, Martin Cox and Alys Fowler.

Now in its fifth year, the Great British Bee Count – sponsored by Ecotalk, and supported by Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust – enables people to find out more about the bees that visit our gardens, parks and countryside, and what they can do to help them. Using a fun, free and easy-to-use app thousands of verified sightings from this year’s Great British Bee Count will be submitted to the government’s Pollinator Monitoring Scheme [PoMS] – which will provide the first comprehensive nationwide health check for Britain’s wild bees and other pollinators.

Friends of the Earth Bee campaigner Emi Murphy said:

“Join the Great British Bee Count and do your bit to help the nation’s bees.

“Habitat loss is one of the biggest threats bees face – so it’s the perfect excuse to get a bit lazy in the garden this summer and allow things to grow wild and play your part in protecting these crucial pollinators.

“Thousands of verified bee sightings from the Great British Bee Count will also contribute to the national Pollinator Monitoring Scheme – the nation’s first comprehensive health check of Britain’s bees and other pollinators.”

People are being urged to play their part in helping Britain’s bees and other wildlife by allowing their gardens to grow a bit wilder, with a few wildflowers or ‘weeds’ and long grass patches. The Great British Bee Count free app contains information on what people can do to help bees including bee spotting and a bee-friendly plant guide. According to a King’s Fund report around 87% of UK households have a garden and estimates suggest that private gardens cover an area about the size of one-fifth of Wales – lots of space to create bee-friendly paradises!

Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity and Ecotalk, said:

“Britain’s bees play a vital role in our environment and in pollinating the crops that feed us – but for the last 50 years they’ve been in decline, this is mostly due to the impact of industrial scale farming as well as a general loss of habitat – land for nature.

“The Great British Bee Count is a great initiative, and Ecotalk is delighted to support it. We’ve launched Ecotalk, Britain’s green mobile phone service, powered by renewable energy with the proceeds being used to buy land and give it back to nature – to create new habitats for the bees and other creatures of Britain.”

Kate Bradbury, Daily Telegraph, Gardeners’ World magazine, said:

“The more we learn about the different bees that visit our gardens, parks and schools, the more we can do to help them. There are so many bees to learn about, from big buzzy bumblebees to teeny tiny solitary bees, not to mention the well-loved honeybee. Every single one has a different flower or nesting preference, something that makes them unique.”

Val Bourne, Daily Telegraph ‘Spring Cottage’ column, Saga, Amateur Gardening, said:

“My earliest garden memory, aged about three, is of watching a bumblebee on a dark aquilegia and I’ve been hooked on bees ever since. I’m proud to be an ambassador for the Great British Bee Count. It will provide valuable information and encourage younger people to learn about the bees in their own garden.”

Martin Cox, Mail on Sunday, Garden News, Amateur Gardening, QVC gardening expert, said: 

“Some people think it’s impossible to have a bee-friendly garden when you’re strapped for space, but even a pocket-sized plot can become an alluring place for these fascinating pollinators. The key for me is to include a few of their favourite plants that are rich in sweet nectar.”

Alys Fowler, The Guardian, said:

“Some call them weeds, but I call them rambunctious joy because surely that is what something that chooses to flower whatever the weather, however many times it’s head is chopped off, despite being trodden on, is called, to be so triumphant despite others’ prejudice. And prejudice is just what it is because whilst we were mislabelling them weeds rather than wildflowers they carried on with their vital work, feeding our bees, pollinators, beneficial insects and beetles, whatever the weather, wherever they grow.”


For more information contact the Friends of the Earth press office on 020 7566 1649 / 07718 394786 (out of hours – please do not text this number) or by emailing

Notes to editors:

  1. Public action on helping wildlife based on research commissioned by Friends of the Earth and administered by YouGov with 2,130 respondents from 4th – 7th May 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  2. The Great British Bee Count enables people to find out more about Britain’s bees and what they can do to help them. The app includes a bee identification guide and survey, a bee-friendly plant guide and a map of bee sightings. Sign up now.
  3. Creative assets / photos – including Great British Bee Count app, bees, illustrations of bee species, celebrity gardeners.
  4. A national Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS) has been introduced as part of the government’s National Pollinator Strategy, which Friends of the Earth, along with Buglife and other organisations, campaigned successfully for. The PoMS will establish how insect pollinator populations are changing across Great Britain.
  5. People can also contribute to the PoMS by doing a Flower-Insect Timed Count or FIT Count – a fun and simple 10-minute count of all insects visiting flowers any time from April to September. All details, including ID guides, videos and online data entry instructions can be found on this website: FIT Counts are currently running across England, Wales and Scotland.
  6. Participants will use the Great British Bee count app to send sightings and photographs of the bees they spot. Around 5,000 of these will be verified by one of the UK’s national bee experts and these will then be submitted for inclusion in the PoMS – which is being led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.
  7. Ecotalk is a new kind of mobile phone service, as all calls, texts and data services are powered by 100% green energy from the wind and sun. And all the money made from customer bills is used to buy land to give back to nature. It’s a pretty radical new idea – buying land in order to make homes for bees and other wildlife. The focus is bees, because by creating new habitats for bees, all nature will benefit.  So each time a customer uses their phone on Ecotalk, they’re helping to ‘put the bee back in Britain’.
  8. For bee-friendly gardening tips.
  9. A King’s Fund report on Gardens and Health [2016] says “around 87 per cent of UK households have a garden and estimates suggest that private gardens cover an area about the size of one-fifth of Wales [page 10.]
  10. About Friends of the Earth: For more than 40 years we’ve seen that the wellbeing of people and planet go hand in hand – and it’s been the inspiration for our campaigns. Together with thousands of people like you we’ve secured safer food and water, defended wildlife and natural habitats, championed the move to clean energy and acted to keep our climate stable. Be a Friend of the Earth – see things differently. For further information visit follow us at @friends_earth, or like our Facebook page.


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