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Bees with numberplates will soon be buzzing around London. Why?

Scientists hope Big Smoke inhabitants will plant apoid-friendly flowers

Photo credit: Dr Joe Woodgate

Hundreds of bees with special number plates attached to their fuzzy abdomens will be released from the rooftops of Queen Mary University of London later today.

The bumblebees are from bee colonies raised at the university and are part of a wider effort to step up conservation efforts in the London Pollinator Project.

The ultimate goal for the researchers is to start a culture change in urban gardening and get more people planting bee-friendly flowers.

By attaching number plates to the bees, the researchers hope to encourage people to monitor and track the behaviour of these bees around London.

Researchers aim to find out what flowers bees prefer and what distances bees fly to. The results will then be used to encourage Londoners to plant the bees’ favourite flowers on their windowsills and in their gardens.

But it’s not the only reason too. The number plates are there to view the pollinators as individuals, so that people can form an attachment to the bees, Lars Chittka, leader of the project and Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at QMUL, told The Register.

Bees are clever and display fascinating behaviours, Chittka explained. In a press release from QMUL, he said: “Bees are fascinating subjects: they travel the distance of London’s congestion charging zone everyday foraging for nectar and somehow remember to return to their hive – not easy when you have a brain the size of a pin.”

They are hugely important for economic reasons as well, he continued: “They pollinate all the fruit and vegetables – that’s a third of all food that is contingent upon these pollinators. Without bees, the cost of food would go up exponentially to deliver the same quality and quantity,” as it would require human effort to do the same job, said Chittka.

To encourage people to take part in their citizen science project, a competition has been set up to snap the best picture of a number-plated bee for their website. The winner will receive £100 in Amazon vouchers. ®

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