Coventry scientists start a buzz around bumblebees

Male white-tailed bumblebee

A new citizen science project from Coventry University has got gardeners and wildlife lovers buzzing.

To celebrate the start of the Blooms for Bees project on 20th June, aimed at promoting and improving gardening for bumblebees, Coventry University is hosting a week of free bee-themed events, talks and tours.

The project is led by Coventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), in partnership with Garden Organic, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and has been made possible by funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Coventry University.

The week of events start on Monday 20th June, when Warwickshire bee expert Steven Falk will be giving a talk, with a question and answer session, at the James Starley Building, Priory Street between 1pm and 2pm and will lead a bee walk around the campus’ edible garden near The Hub between 3pm and 4pm. The sessions are free and open to all, although booking is required. Details of all events can be found at Blooms for Bees.

The project’s specially designed app and new website will officially launch at a free weekend-long Gardening for Bees Festival at Ryton Organic Gardens in Warwickshire, on the 30th-31st July.

Members of the public from across the UK will be encouraged to get involved in the two year project, by taking and sharing photographs of bumblebees on flowers in their gardens and allotments, using the project’s app or website.

Participants will not only discover which bumblebees are visiting their blooms, but will also be contributing a wealth of information about these important pollinating insects and their favourite flowers.

The free app will be available on iOS and Android and will feature a bumblebee identification guide, with illustrations, photographs and descriptions of the 25 beautiful species of bumblebees currently buzzing around the UK.

Gemma Foster, researcher and project lead at CAWR, explained: “Bumblebee populations have declined in recent years, but gardens and allotments offer us an amazing opportunity to create vibrant flower-rich habitats to support these vital pollinators. The Blooms for Bees project will offer members of the public an opportunity to discover more about these fascinating creatures, improve our understanding of bumblebee floral preferences and gather evidence to contribute to improved garden management for bumblebee conservation.”

RHS senior horticultural advisor, Helen Bostock, was delighted the project had received Heritage Lottery funding to get started. She said: “The project gives us a rare chance to ‘see’ into hundreds of gardens across the UK and find out just which plants bumblebees love to visit. We hope participants will also discover the joy of recognising different bumblebees and realise the important role plant choice can have in supporting this group of pollinators.”

The information gathered from the thousands of ‘citizen scientists’, who it is hoped will take part, will be analysed and used to improve recommendations for garden management for bumblebees.

Members of the public can register for the free festival lectures and workshops, and the bumblebee identification workshops at Garden Organic and RHS gardens across the UK by visiting the project website BloomsForBees.co.uk, by calling 0755 7425269 or emailing gemma.foster@coventry.ac.uk.

Posted: 
Friday, 17 June 2016