Waitrose launches smartphone app aimed at helping to protect bees
Waitrose has launched a smartphone app through which its customers can get involved in a 'Citizen Science' project aimed at helping to protect bees and other pollinating insects.
The grocer has worked with international environment charity Earthwatch to develop the free app, through which smartphone users can help collect data about the pollinators in their gardens and which plants bees and other pollinating insects prefer to visit the most.
Customers are being asked to take a picture of any insects they see visiting flowers and bushes in the garden and upload the pictures via the app to the project database.
The data will then be fed in to a University of Sussex research project, funded by The Crown Estate, which aims to build a more detailed picture on pollinator activity and create a more comprehensive list of the plants and flowers that encourage them into gardens.
In the longer term, Waitrose will also use the findings to tell its customers which of the plants it sells are particularly bee-friendly.
The 'Bee-Friend Your Garden' app can be downloaded for Android and iOS devices by visiting the Waitrose website. It will run throughout the summer and Waitrose hopes that it will generate hundreds of thousands of pollinator observations.
Pollinating insects such as bees, birds, butterflies and moths are increasingly under threat, but vital for food production.
Waitrose director of quality & technical David Croft explained: "Much of the food we eat relies on insect pollination, so bees are crucial to sustaining agriculture in the long term and their survival directly affects us all.
"We had such a strong and positive reaction to our decision to stop using three types of neonicotinoid pesticides earlier this year. Through this app we're aiming to significantly further influence this important issue, hopefully generating hundreds of thousands of insect observations to show which plants bees like to visit the most."
Simon Barnes of Earthwatch added: "Citizen science is a powerful tool as data is collected on a large scale - once we understand more about bee-friendly plants in people's gardens we can look at how to optimise that number, which will ease some of the pressure on pollinators. Earthwatch has a long tradition of practicing citizen science through participation on its global research expeditions; this model is equally effective in your own back garden."
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