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Three things to expect from London's number-plated bees

Sam Lewis-Hargreave

Ever since Jerry Seinfeld’s inspirational 2007 documentary 'Bee Movie', the world has become increasingly sympathetic to the purpose and plight of our yellow-and-black-striped friends.

In a bid to better care for bees in our modern metropolis, London is now playing host to a project that will give researchers unique insight into urban bee behaviour. In short, London’s putting licence plates on bees.

On June 21st, Queen Mary University biologists released 500 bees into the capital, each tagged with little bee licence plates, and they plan to release hundreds more each week. Here are three things we can expect from this new horde of bee traffic.


1. They might create a buzz around the next place to 'bee'

The freshly released bees should help us understand their preferred places in London for visiting flowers. But we could be surprised. Like regular smoke, the Big Smoke does strange things to bees. 

Two years ago a swarm of bees with solid fashion sense descended on the Victoria Street branch of Topshop. Five thousand bees tried to start a high street hive until a manager from the nearby John Lewis, who happened to be a trained beekeeper with all his bee gear inexplicably at work with him, 'smoked them into a box'.

Also, just weeks ago, hundreds of bees convened in the basket of a bike in Fulham, causing police to step in.

These more sophisticated bees, with flashy license plates, may well find a little-known honey-based cocktail pop-up that everyone will be talking about until it closes for bee-ing too mainstream.

2. They may head for London’s secret gardens

You don’t have to be a hardcore gardener, capable of saying ‘botany’ without sniggering, to know that London is home to several secret and secluded city gardens. The Barbican Conservatory is one of the capital’s best known, but the bees are more likely to head for one of these eight free flower shows for the finest floral experience. 

3. They might just die

There’s a sting in the tail of this otherwise optimistic article: the bees might die.

If you’ve been following bee news, you’ll know that the bumbling population is rapidly declining, which makes this prospect even more heartbreaking. Earlier this month, dozens of bees were mysteriously found dead on the streets of London. There have even been some reports that the city’s pollution is hampering bees’ ability to smell, making their existence understandably difficult. 

Pollination is almost single-handedly responsible for the continued existence of most of the fruit and vegetables we eat. If our carbon emissions are harming bees – an essential part of our ecosystem – we need to act faster than Usain Bolt on a pair of rocket-powered rollerskates. Do it for the bees. And, y’know, humanity in general.

Check out our guide to London's hidden gardens and green spaces.

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