A guide to the Great British Bee Count app
The Great British Bee Count app helps you identify a number of distinctive types of bees – both common and not so common – as well as some bee lookalikes. This year the app is even easier to use, and captures information about more species than last year.
Last year many of you told us you wanted to use our app for a longer time. While you can only submit sightings during the 6-week period (19 May-30 June), you can now carry on using the app as a bee identification guide through the summer.
As you register each sighting, the information about the bee – including the habitat, geographic location and weather conditions – will be recorded on our database. We will then verify your records and upload them to the National Biodiveristy Network Atlas where they will be available to scientists and conservationists across the country.
When you spot a bee during the count (19 May-30 June) just follow the steps below with your smartphone.
Step-by-step guide to the Great British Bee Count app
Step 1 – Take and submit a photo (optional)
You don't have to take a photo (we know bees are tricky to capture) but a photo is useful in helping us verify your identification and make it more reliable.
Step 2 – Which bee have you spotted?
Identify your bee, using our handy tips. Then use the + or – button to indicate how many you've seen.
Step 3 - Confirm the weather and habitat
This information will give useful insights about bee behaviour and which habitats are pollinator friendly.
Step 4 – Confirm your location
Use the GPS or submit your postcode.
What is the timed bee count?
This optional feature allows you to capture information about which bees prefer which plants.
Here you will be asked to observe a 0.5 x 0.5 m area that contains flowering plants. You’ll then need to choose one plant type to observe, eg lavender - or add your own suggestion. Then you'll pick a type of bee to count.
Within a 1-minute window you will need to count how many bees of your chosen type visit that plant. You’ll have a timer to help you keep time.
Once you submit this information we’ll create a league table of the best plants for bees. And we'll encourage people to plants these in their gardens or communal areas.
New features for 2017 – improving the usefulness of our data
We've worked hard this year to develop some key features in the app. Some of these are in response to your feedback, and to make it easier to use. Many of the improvements were designed to collect information that can provide more meaningful insights for environmental decision-makers when we share the verified data via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas, the country's largest collection of biodiversity information.
These are some of the main new features:
Since we had so many submissions last year from bee counters across the country, we've added more species for you to look for in 2017.
The orange-tailed mining bee is one of these. It's a common species and a little trickier to identify than other mining bees, but simple once you know which features to look for - like the tuft of ginger hairs on its bottom. If we find that lots of you can identify this species, we may add even more bees to the app.
Ever heard of a cuckoo bee? Just like the bird, they lay their eggs in the nests of others. The common mourning bee is one such species that we’ve added to the list. It lays its eggs in the nests of hairy-footed flower bees - so if you see a common mourning bee, it's an indicator that the host bee is nearby too.
We’ve also added two rarer bees, the long-horned bee and the shrill carder bee. The latter is one of Britain’s rarest bumblebees. Your records of these will be especially useful to conservationists. Who knows, you might discover a new rare bee outpost. The shrill carder bee can turn up in surprising places such as brownfield sites or waste ground in cities.
We’ve added new fact files and description details to make identification easier – and help us verify your sightings more quickly.
We’ve written new profiles for each bee so that you can learn more about what makes them special. How do they behave, where do they live, what do they pollinate and are you likely to spot them using your bee hotel?
Last year we asked you to count bees on a number of plants, to help us identify which plants were most bee friendly. This year you can count individual bee types. This information will be even more useful to scientists looking to find out which bees prefer which flowers. You can also enter counts from plants that aren’t in our top list but that might be popular with bees, wherever you are.
Previously we've focused on the bees on your doorstep in gardens, parks and allotments. Now we’ve added a number of extra habitats for you to choose from that will help bee experts with their research when they use your records.
For example, if you record bees in the countryside, in a yellow field of oilseed rape, you can also select 'Flowering cropland' to distinguish it from a cereal field or pasture that may have fewer flowers for bees.
Quarries and waste ground often support a mosaic of wildflower-rich areas, bare ground and scrub catering for a great variety of bee species. Some of them are strongholds for the rare shrill carder bee.
If you spend time over the summer near a river, lake or canal, we'd love you to record bees under the 'Wetland or waterside' category. Wetland wildflowers such as loosestrifes, flag iris and kingcup can be important foraging habitat for bees, including rarities like the shrill carder.
The Great British Bee Count team
Many busy bees have been hard at work to help Friends of the Earth's team bring you this year's Great British Bee Count. A special thank you goes to our sponsor Waitrose and supporting partner Buglife, as well as our Scientific Advisor Rory Dimond. The app was created by Two Thirds Water, with stunning bee illustrations from wildlife artist Chris Shields, and photographs for the app kindly donated by Steven Falk, Matt Shardlow and Nigel Jones.
Thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers, we hope to process the large volume of your submissions into useful ecological data - and publish the results – faster than ever.
Lastly, thank you to the supporters, organisations and businesses that have helped spread the word, to enthuse even more nature lovers to take action for bees.