North-east researchers have asked thousands of bumblebee enthusiasts to help with a project on the best pollinating plants.
The citizen scientist programme BeeWatch, which was set up by Aberdeen University and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in 2011, will be used to determine the plants which create the most valuable habitat for the insects.
More than 6,000 data entries have been received through the site, where members of the public can log their bee sightings along with which flowers and plants they were seen visiting.
The project was motivated by widespread concern over declining numbers of pollinating insects.
It will inform the Royal Horticultural Society on future bee-friendly plantings.
Dr Helen Anderson, from the university’s school of biological sciences, said: “We all know that pollinators like bumblebees are in trouble and need our help – it is a global problem,” she said.
“More than 6,000 records have been submitted to the BeeWatch Planting for Pollinators site since it was first set up, and we used this data to determine food plant use by the nations’ bumblebee species, and show that much of the plant use recorded does not reflect practitioner recommendations.
“While communicated widely by organisations, and readily taken up by gardeners, ‘pollinator-friendly’ lists often fail to recognise the stark differences among species and pollinator groups, or adapt to changing phenology or gardening practices.
“Using citizen science data can be one of the best ways to help bumblebees if it uses up-to-date observations on plant use from data collected by members of the public. The data they provide can be much more specific about the plants used by individual bumblebee species, rather than relying on ‘pollinator-friendly’ labelling, which gives generic planting recommendations.”