Allotments are best for supporting bees, citizen science project finds

Allotments are better than parks or roadsides for bees, a leading bee expert has said, following the results of the first Great British Bee Count published today.

Cuckoo bumble bee, shot in London. Picture: Amelia Collins
Cuckoo bumble bee, shot in London. Picture: Amelia Collins

Bumble bee expert professor Dave Goulson said that parks and roadsides need improving, following a citizen science project in which more than 23,000 people around the UK used a free smart phone app to log their sightings of 832,000 bees over 12 weeks.

The bee spotters saw an average of 12 in allotments compared to 10 in the countryside, eight in the garden, seven in parks and four by roads.

Yellow and black bumblebees were the most spotted type of bee in all regions with 304,857 sightings and honey bees were the second most-seen in all regions with 193,837 sightings. Of these 42 per cent were seen in rural areas, 30 per cent in suburbs and 28 per cent in urban areas.

Goulson, author of A Sting In the Tale, said: "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." 

The Great British Bee Count was a joint project by B&Q, Friends of the Earth and Buglife. Campaigners have called for the Government's national strategy to protect bees and pollinators - due this autumn - to support farmers to cut pesticide use and create more bee-friendly habitat in public spaces and new developments.

Scientists warn that the overall picture for British bees is one of serious decline, with 71 of 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. 

Experts advise planting and protecting ivy which provides a food source going into the winter and plant perennials, bulbs and shrubs to ensure a food source for spring.

Full survey results are available here.

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