By Beth Nicholls, founding member of the Buzz Club


The Buzz Club is a brand new charity, founded by scientists at The University of Sussex, with the aim of collecting important data on pollinator declines, whilst at the same time engaging people of all ages with nature and the environment in a rather unique way – by allowing them to become scientists in their own back gardens or school yards.

Flower-visiting insects such as bees and hoverflies are vital for pollinating many of the food crops eaten by humans and other animals, playing a vital role in our survival and future food security. However, while many of these important species seem to be declining or disappearing from the UK, reliable, long-term data on pollinator numbers is sorely lacking. Unfortunately, collecting nationwide data on pollinator abundance with only a small team of university scientists is just not feasible, and yet without such data we cannot begin to address some of the really important conservation issues facing pollinators – such as where and why are some species declining, and what can we do to help them. This is where The Buzz Club steps in, harnessing the power of citizen science to generate important data on pollinators!

The Buzz Club asks our members from all across the UK to conduct fun experiments to help quantify pollinator numbers, and test out new conservation and monitoring methods. One of our most recent projects asked our citizen scientists to create a ‘hoverfly lagoon’, and report back to us whether the lagoons were successful in encouraging hoverflies to breed, providing us with a measure of how useful this approach might be in conserving hoverfly populations. Other projects will involve the planting of small wildflower meadows to measure the suitability of different seed mixes, and monitoring solitary bee populations using bee hotels. We then collate all the data, analyse and summarise the findings, which we then present back to our members in the form of a quarterly newsletter, as well as publishing the findings in scientific journals for other pollination biologists to read.

We charge a small monthly membership fee of £2, for which members receive all the equipment necessary for conducting each experiment, as well as detailed instructions and updates on the findings and results. We really encourage our citizen scientists to engage with us and other members via Twitter and Facebook, so we can keep track of how everyone is getting on and troubleshoot any problems.

By becoming citizen scientists, we hope our members will gain a better understanding of the biological processes underpinning the natural world, and by explaining how scientific experiments are designed and conducted, hopefully we can begin to bridge the gap between “the scientists” and “the public”. Ultimately we hope to engage people with their local environment, whilst at the same time collecting data which can reliably be used to further our understanding of the pressures faced by the UK’s pollinators, and hopefully determine which conservation management practices are likely to be most successful in halting insect declines.

Find out more about The Buzz Club, or the British Science Association's work on citizen science. Celebrate Biology Week, (10-18 October) and see what events are happening near you.