Hive fives all round: Researchers un-bee-lievably grateful after public support bags funding boost

Dr Ellen Rotheray and Dr Claire Harkin are looking for volunteers to help monitor bees and fruit growing on Brighton's balconies.

University of Sussex researchers investigating how bees get a buzz out of Brighton’s balconies and courtyards have thanked the public after shoppers’ votes bagged them a funding boost.

The Buzzing Balconies project has received £4,000 after bagging the most votes in the latest round of Tesco Bags of Help.

Now the team are turning to the public again for help in their search for citizen scientists prepared to help take part in a simple experiment to help uncover new information about UK pollinating insects and the current threats they face.

Buzzing Balconies are looking for 100 Brighton and Hove families who have access to outside space other than a garden, such as a balcony or courtyard, who would be happy to grow some flowers and strawberries over the summer.

Dr Claire Harkin, teaching fellow in Evolution, Behaviour and Environment at the University of Sussex and member of the Buzzing Balconies project team, said: “This should be a really fun and easy project to do and we'll provide all the materials, seeds and instructions on how to take part.

"We think it will be ideal for families wanting to get their children involved in learning about nature but having children is certainly not a requirement, absolutely anyone can get involved and do their bit and hopefully get a lot out of being a participant.

"We'll be posting updates on social media as we go along so hopefully people will feel a sense of community and involvement in the project as well as contributing to scientific records and helping create some habitat for our urban pollinators.”

Participants will be asked to plant a growbag with wildflower seeds and some strawberry plants that will be provided by the project team. They will be asked to hand-pollinate one of the plants, and leave the other to be pollinated only by their insect visitors.

Once the plants start bearing fruit, participants will be asked to update researchers on how many strawberries were collected from each plant and how much they weigh, as well as letting the team know what flowers appear and what insect visitors, including bees, hoverflies and butterflies, come along. The team will be on hand via social media and email to give advice and help with identification throughout the project.

Dr Ellen Rotheray, also a teaching fellow in Evolution, Behaviour and Environment at the University of Sussex and member of the Buzzing Balconies project team, said: “Pollinators are responsible for providing one out of every three mouthfuls of food that we eat, but we know they are facing some really serious threats to their health and survival.

"One of the biggest threats comes from loss of habitat, but even in very busy cities like Brighton and Hove, we can use what little outside space we do have to grow a network of pollinator-friendly areas that we hope could really make all the difference to their future.

“There is already evidence that urban areas can support strong populations of pollinators; even in the centre of cities, window box flowers are visited by bumblebees, hoverflies and other pollinators. As the area covered by urbanization increases every year, there is a real opportunity to turn our urban areas into havens for wild insects.”

To sign up to Buzzing Balconies visit here. For more information on Buzzing Balconies visit or contact the team at or on Twitter @buzzingbalcony.

By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Thursday, 12 July 2018