Bees are in decline
Bees are vital to a healthy environment and healthy economy. Around 75% of the food we eat needs to be pollinated, and bees – wild bees, not just honey bees – are major players in that job. Bees also help keep our green spaces flourishing. That includes gardens, parks and streets, as well as uncultivated areas like woodland, heath and grasslands.
But since 1900 the UK has lost around 13 species of bee. A further 35 are considered under threat of extinction.
Bees face a combination of threats such as the loss of their habitat and food sources, exposure to harmful pesticides, climate change and chaotic weather, as well as pests and diseases.
Like us, bees need a safe climate and clean air. They also need natural habitats and farmland that supports wildlife and is free from pesticides.
Information about bees is fragmented
While there is clear evidence that bees have declined in occurrence and diversity, scientists and decision-makers still don't have enough data about pollinators including bees. This is especially true of some species of bumble and solitary bees which are among the most vulnerable.
"Long-term international or national monitoring of both pollinators and pollination is urgently required to provide information on status and trends for most species and most parts of the world."Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination & Food Production (IPBES)
To help reverse their decline, scientists, government ministers and others need to make better-informed decisions to ensure that bees and other pollinators - and their habitats - are protected. This requires vital information about bees – their numbers, locations, changes in their populations, and how they're responding to their changing environment.
Better monitoring helps everyone - from government and businesses, to farmers and gardeners - to make better-informed decisions so that Britain's bees and other pollinators flourish and thrive, not just survive.
Monitoring is essential to reverse bee decline
In 2014 Friends of the Earth led a coalition of organisations which, with the support of thousands of people like you, persuaded the Government to launch a Bee Action Plan. This plan (or National Pollinator Strategy [PDF]) identified the need for an official monitoring scheme for bees and other pollinators.
Friends of the Earth launched the Great British Bee Count in 2014 to demonstrate the need, and public enthusiasm, to increase our understanding of these special insects. Our simple initiative has been a valuable public contribution, and a great way to raise wider awareness - but an official scheme is still essential. The government has since announced that it will launch an official national insect monitoring scheme. The data from verified bee sightings gathered as part of the Great British Bee Count will contribute to this new scheme.
How will your contribution help?
By recording any bees you see this summer, you'll be helping us build a better picture of how bees, across the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, are doing.
Your sightings could also help show how these species are responding to climate change. For example, how the tawny mining bee is moving northwards, and how the tree bumblebee is spreading across the UK since its arrival in 2001.
By using our timed count feature, you'll also help us find out more about which flowers are particularly attractive to bees. This year we've added wildflowers to the feature, as well as the option to count from a different plant if you record lots of bees on a type of flower we haven't listed.
And importantly, by taking part, you’ll be sending a clear signal to the government and decision-makers that the public care about the future of bees. That’s why we want as many people as possible to take part - so that they can raise awareness among their friends and family about the wonderful world of bees and how everybody can take small steps to protect pollinators.
All data will be available to researchers and environmental decision-makers
Once verified, the information you submit will be shared with experts – from academic researchers to local government ecologists - via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas. Any photos you submit will be particularly helpful in helping with verification. This will help them evaluate the status of bee populations and how they're responding to different environmental stress factors.
Government monitoring scheme
Your sightings will also contribute towards the Government's new insect monitoring scheme and related Pollinator Monitoring and Research Partnership (PMRP). This will also help directly inform government policies and decisions on ways to reverse bee and pollinator decline.
Conservation research programmes
Some of the data from this year's Great British Bee Count will contribute towards conservation programmes.
For example if any new sites for the Shrill carder bee are found, this information will help the Back from the Brink recovery project for this species led by Buglife and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.