Bumblebee Census: Volunteers sought to identify bumblebee population

Could you spot the difference between a White-tailed bumblebee and a Garden bumblebee? Did you even know that there are 24 species of bumblebee in the UK?

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen are looking for hundreds of volunteers to help them identify the UK’s bumblebee population and distribution.

Bumblebees are a crucial to the country’s eco-system as one of nature’s most important pollinators of both crops and wildflowers.

The BeeWatch project has been prompted by the decline of the country’s 24 bumblebee species as a result of habitat loss and changes in agricultural practices.


The scheme aims to enlist members of the public in a bid to address the lack of information about what bumblebee species occur where and how this may be changing over time.

“We need to learn more about our bumblebees in order to protect them”, explained Dr René van der Wal of the University of Aberdeen’s Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability.

“We are looking for volunteers to help identify bumblebees from pictures that are submitted to the BeeWatch website. You can help by suggesting identifications for bumblebee photos. Whether you are skilled at identifying bumblebees or a complete beginner wanting to learn we would welcome your help.

“Our research has shown that combining the efforts of volunteers into a group results in reliable identification of large numbers of photos.  With volunteers’ help we can expand BeeWatch and further increase our knowledge of the distribution of bumblebees in the UK.

“Another way volunteers can support the project is by taking pictures of bumblebees and submitting them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done anything like this before as the website offers pictures and facts on different species of bumblebee, allowing you to start trying to identify bumblebees. An expert will then get back to you with feedback to confirm the identification, thus allowing you to learn how to identify these intriguing creatures.”

BeeWatch is an interactive bumblebee website tool launched in 2012 by Dot.rural, Aberdeen University’s digital hub, in collaboration with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT).

Notes to Editors

dot.rural is the RCUK Digital Economy Hub focusing on the rural digital economy. Rural areas have specific characteristics that create challenges around issues such as quality of life and wealth creation. These include: small, often dispersed populations; narrow and uneven channels of information flow; rapid change in population structures and economic activity bases; and restricted access to digital infrastructure. We believe that rural areas of the UK can, through the user-led application of digital technology, be more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. Our aim is to harness the Hub’s expertise with a range of partners to realise this ambition. Our activities are organised around four rural challenges: Healthcare, Accessibility and Mobilities, Conservation of Natural Resources, Enterprise & Culture. For more information on dot.rural.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust was established because of serious concerns about the ‘plight of the bumblebee’. In the last 80 years our bumblebee populations have crashed. Two species have become nationally extinct and several others have declined dramatically.

We are working toward four main aims:

  • The prevention of the extinction of any of the UK’s bumblebees
  • A long-term future for all our bumblebees and other pollinators which support the ecosystem service of pollination
  • The protection, creation and restoration of flower-rich habitats
  • An increase in the understanding and appreciation of bumblebees