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23/06/2016, 17:00

Hundreds of bees tagged with licence plates are released in London

London-dwelling bee lovers will be buzzing about the latest project from Queen Mary University of London.

Today, 500 individually numbered bees will be released from the roof of the university, as part of a project to reveal the secret lives of the insects.

The scientists are encouraging the public to take photos of the individually coloured number-plated creatures, with prizes available for the best images.

London-dwelling bee lovers will be buzzing about the latest project from Queen Mary University of London. The scientists are encouraging the public to take photos of the individually coloured number-plated bees, with prizes available for the best snaps

The London Pollinator Project is trying to find out which patches in London the bees prefer, in particular their favourite flowers, which reward them with nectar and pollen. 

Five hundred bees will be released on Tuesday 21 June, and then several hundred more each week over the coming month as bee colonies mature.

Biologists from QMUL's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences will attach weather-resistant number tags on the backs of bees. 

'The fact that the bees have individual 'license plates' will allow anyone interested to develop their own science project, and ask scientific questions about the behaviour of bees,' said Project leader Professor Lars Chittka, from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

'For example, citizen scientists might be intrigued to see the same bee return to their balcony and might record when during the day, how many times and which flowers they prefer,' said Professor Chittka. 

'They may be curious about what these regular visits tell us about a bee's memory for places and why certain bees prefer particular colour flowers.'

The scientists are encouraging the public to identify the bees, and take photos for a competition.

On Tuesday, 500 individually numbered bees will be released from the roof of the university, as part of a project to reveal the secret lives of the insects, with more releases to follow over the next month

Biologists from QMUL's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences will attach weather-resistant number tags on the backs of bees

Of the 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees.

In Europe alone, 84 per cent of the 264 crop species are animal pollinated and 4,000 vegetable varieties exist thanks to pollination by bees.

About 70 different crops in the UK are dependent on, or benefit from, bee visits. Bees also pollinate flowers of many plants which help feed our farm animals. 

Prizes of £100 Amazon gift vouchers will be given away for the best photo of a tagged bee on a flower, for the highest number of tagged bees spotted and for the best photo of a London bee-friendly garden.

The London Pollinator Project is trying to find out which patches in London the bees prefer, in particular their favourite flowers, which reward them with nectar and pollen.

Project coordinator, Dr Clint Perry, from QMUL's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: 'We hope the London Pollinator Project will encourage the public to plant flowers in our urban spaces that will help supply the right nectar and pollen resources for our threatened urban bees, and hopefully increase urban pollinator populations if a large enough effort is made across the city.' 

The scientists are encouraging the public to identify the bees, and take photos for a competition. Prizes of £100 Amazon gift vouchers will be given away for the best photo of a tagged bee on a flower, for the highest number of tagged bees spotted and for the best photo of a London bee-friendly garden

Five hundred bees will be released today, followed by several hundred more each week over the coming month as bee colonies mature.

The project has already encouraged Londoners to plant flowers that are rich in nectar and pollen, like English lavender, viper's bugloss, or spiked speedwell. 

Once the bees are released the researchers will be able to see how successful urban gardening efforts have been.

We hope that the observation of number-tagged bees in people's gardens will raise an appreciation of insects as individuals - with individual memories of a particular flower patch, and with individual preferences for certain flowers that differ from those of other bees,' said Professor Chittka.

'And once you view animals as individuals rather than anonymous entities, you develop a connection with them, and a deeper understanding of why it's important to assist with the conservation of threatened animals.' 

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