Bee hotels, bee stops and a honey highway are some of the techniques the Dutch are crediting with keeping their urban bee population steady in recent years, after a period of worrying decline.
Last week, more than 11,000 people from across the Netherlands participated in a bee-counting exercise as part of the fourth edition of the national bee census.
The enthusiastic volunteers, armed with a list depicting the most common bees at this time of the year, spent 30 minutes in their gardens recording their apian visitors. At the close of data submission on Sunday 18 April, more than 200,000 bees and hoverflies had been counted.
The results – for urban bees at least – were steady. Vincent Kalkman, entomologist at Naturalis, one of the organisations behind the census said: “An average of 18 to 20 bees and hoverflies were recorded in each garden during the count. These numbers have remained steady over the years, indicating that there is no strong decline in urban gardens.”
The census aims to collect five years’ of data before drawing definitive conclusions on bee population trends.
The honeybee (Apis mellifera) was the most spotted bee with more than 55,000 observations while the red mason bee (Osmia bicornis) and the earth bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) came in a distant second and third with about 13,000 and 12,800 records respectively. “The bee census is about gathering data but it is also serves to draw people’s attention to the different kinds of bees visiting their gardens,” said Kalkman. “It [the census] is also about education.”