Environment

How you can help boost bee and butterfly populations with a new government app

A new app for counting bees, butterflies and other pollinators hopes to boost populations across the country and improve biodiversity.

Insect populations have seen a steep decline in the last two decades. (Image: Pixabay)

The government is calling on the public to help boost bee, butterfly and pollinator populations using a free app for counting the creatures at home.

The app, FIT Count, allows users to track the number and movements of pollinators in their local area, with the resulting data used to help protect and increase their numbers. 

It comes as the government launches its new “pollinator action plan” to reverse severe declines in the number of bees, butterflies and other insects. 

In May, a study by insect charity Buglife revealed that insect populations have nosedived by as much as 60 per cent in Britain in the last 20 years, sounding alarm bells over the potential collapse of the wider ecosystem. 

FIT Count, developed by the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) in conjunction with the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, asks users to spend ten minutes a day collecting data on how many insects visit particular kinds of flowers, like dandelions and buttercups.

The data will be collated in a database to give the government and conservation bodies a clearer picture of the state of insect populations and decline across the UK.

The app forms part of the government’s new action plan for pollinators, which will focus on several key areas to boost populations, including: 

  • Improving data collection on pollinators to identify trends
  • Managing land more effectively to improve habitats 
  • Supporting beekeepers and bee farmers in maintaining bee health
  • Engaging the public with the issue of pollinator decline and encouraging them to take action

The decline in pollinator populations has suffered from a visibility problem, with large parts of the public unaware of the problem or how severe it is. Last month, The Big Issue visited a nature reserve to explore the issue of “invisible extinction” in the insect world.

Insects have a vital role in food production and the wider ecosystem. It’s estimated that insects contribute the equivalent of more than £500 million a year to UK agriculture and food production.

Introducing the new FIT Count app, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

“We all want to see an abundance of butterflies and bees in our gardens, parks and countryside. 

“We are encouraging people to give just ten minutes of their time to count the pollinating insects they see using this app to help us track their numbers and movements, and support our efforts to reverse the decline of these vital species.”

Other actions people can take to support insect populations include letting grass grow wild, planting wildflowers and avoiding pesticides where possible. 

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