Across Europe and North America our bees are in decline. In the past 60 years, the United Kingdom has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows ­­– one of the most important habitats for bees. Alongside habitat loss, the latest research has shown that a group used of pesticides known as neonicotinoids are also having a detrimental effect on both wild and solitary bees.

With bees pollinating 75% of our main food crops worldwide, and scientists estimating that it would cost more than £1.8 billion every year to pollinate UK crops by hand, there’s more reason than ever to do what we can to protect them.

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As part of its campaign to help Britain’s bees, Friends of the Earth has created the Great British Bee Count app to collect data on the nation’s bee population. Last year, more than 23,000 people took part using their smartphones to document 830,000 bee sightings. Taking place between June and August, they found that more bees were seen on allotments than anywhere else – another reason to start growing your own fruit and veg!

This year’s count begins on the 1st May and will run until the end of the month, focusing on bees that appear earlier in the year. The app has also introduced a range of new features, including:

  • Photographs – submit a photo of a bee so that the experts can correctly identify it.
  • Timed count – count how many bees you see in two minutes so that Friends of the Earth can build a map comparing numbers with factors like habitat loss and land use.
  • Identification guide – using the colour of the bee’s tail, you can have a go at identifying any bees you see using the handy photo guide.
  • Activities – suggestions of further activities to hone your skills and become a bee expert of the future!
  • Visit the Friends of the Earth website for access to a whole host of resources, including this free wallchart, showing when different bee friendly flowers are in bloom so that you can help to feed bees in your garden all year round.

Available for both Apple and Android operating systems, the Great British Bee Count app is freely available to download now from the App Store or Google Play.

Photograph: Marco Nae

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