Scientists have launched the first ever national citizen science survey on bee hotels, asking the public how they build, place, and maintain them in an effort to help the UK’s solitary bee population.
Supported by the Royal Society’s Summer Science 2021
event, the survey from the Earlham Institute and Bee Saviour Behaviour aims to better understand how they are used and improve guidance for achieving busier bee hotels.
The data gathered could be used to identify ways to make the most of bee hotels in gardens, parks, and public spaces – including the best building materials and prime location – and inform conservation efforts to boost numbers of solitary bees.
The total area of UK gardens adds up to more land than our nature reserves and national parks combined, giving the public the power to make a positive change for bee populations through interventions that can be participated in where you live.
Bee hotels make a brilliant tool for creating nesting habitats for solitary bees in urban environments but many are there for merely decorative purposes and few have the durability to make a lasting impact.
Previous findings from pilot survey research have suggested that a third of bee hotels in the UK are not in working condition due to being poorly installed or not well designed to meet the bees’ needs.
With a simple five-minute survey, researchers aim to build up a national picture of how people use their bee hotels and how this is having a positive impact on pollinators.
Bees contribute to every one in three bites of food we eat.
However, as well as urban expansion, the rise of industrial agriculture has taken over crucial natural wildflower habitats, severely affecting the demise of the bee population.
This has been magnified by the widespread use of harmful pesticides, which kill-off poll-inating insects, including bees.
“Simply put, the biggest chal-lenge facing UK bees is the impact of humans on the environment,” said Dan Harris, founder of Bee Saviour Behaviour, a community-based project in Norwich.
“Practically speaking we’re talking about the disappearance of habitat and the introduction of harmful chemicals into the green spaces that bees occupy. The destruction of habitat isn’t all about concrete and urban landscapes. The way humans farm with acres of one crop has a massive impact on bee populations and the biodiversity of these rural areas.”
Dr Will Nash, Postdoctoral Scientist at the Earlham Institute, said: “Lots of the science we do at the Earlham Institute involves analysing data to understand more about the natural world.
“At its heart, that’s what this citizen science project is all about – getting that crucial data about bee hotels to really understand how they’re being used by the public.
“We want to use this data to help nature-lovers make more welcoming and effective spaces for the bee populations they live alongside.”
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