Sussex scientists call on public to help monitor bees

Bumblebees are important pollinators. Image: Dave Goulson

Bee researchers at the University of Sussex are looking for volunteers for the second year of an ongoing citizen science project, examining whether there are enough bees left in our gardens and towns to pollinate fruit and vegetable crops properly. 

Members of the public who take part will be sent seeds to grow plants and monitor how well they are being pollinated. 

Professor Dave Goulson, who has studied bumblebees for 20 years, says: “This fun and educational science project is suitable for children or adults, and for any outside space. It is very little effort to take part, and at the end you get to eat the beans!” 

Many bee species are rarer than they used to be, hurt by changes in farming and loss of flower-rich habitats. There is concern that bee declines could cause a ‘pollination crisis’ and a failure of crop yields, which has already happened elsewhere in the world. 

Now in its second year, the experiment involves growing broad beans and flowering radish plants, hand-pollinating some flowers and leaving others for wild bees to pollinate – then counting how many pods they eventually produce. No knowledge or experience is required, and the experiment requires just a few minutes each week through the spring and summer. 

The results from individual gardens will be compared across the country to see if pollination has been depleted, and volunteers will be informed of the results of that analysis. 

PhD student Linda Birkin, who co-ordinates the study, adds: “Many of our garden favourites rely on bee pollination to produce crops; including beans, raspberries, tomatoes, blueberries and so on, as well as hundreds of species of wild flower.  So we need to monitor bee numbers.  If there aren’t enough in parts of the UK, then conservation efforts can be focused there.” 

The ‘Bees ‘n Beans’ project will start in early April. To find out more, and sign up, go to, or email Linda Birkin at

Participants will be sent a pack containing materials and seeds for the project, and everything they need to know.  Results can be returned via a simple online form.

Notes for editors

University of Sussex press office contacts: James Hakner and Jacqui Bealing –; 01273 678888.

By: James Hakner
Last updated: Monday, 2 March 2015