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Back an app for getting to know the world’s bees

1000 Bees is a forthcoming app (for the iPhone and iPad) that will showcase and celebrate the diversity of bees in our world

Source: Wired

Five years ago, Lasioglossum gotham was discovered buzzing around Brooklyn’s botanical gardens. This little insect, about the size of a rice grain, is colloquially referred to as the Gotham Bee, though it’s far from the only bee in the big city. According to Chris O’Toole, an entomologist at London’s Natural History Museum, some 90 species have been discovered around the gardens, which isn’t even half the number of bees discovered in New York – that’s closer to 250. And NYC is amateur hour compared to California, where more than 1,800 bee species have been found. And to put that in perspective, more than 4,500 species of bees have been discovered in the United States alone.

The point is, there are many, many different kinds of bees in the world—at least 20,000 recognized species thus far – and you probably know only a fraction of them. That’s a shame, say Callum Cooper and Ana Tiquia.

Callum, a filmmaker, and Tiquia, a creative producer, are raising money on Kickstarter for 1000 Bees, an interactive app (free on iOS) that provides a in-depth look at, yep, you guessed it, a thousand species of bee. The goal is raise awareness of the biodiversity among bees and shed light on the fact that they’re quickly dwindling in numbers.

An app about bees might sound a little dry or a little unsettling, depending on your outlook, but 1000 Bees is surprisingly engaging. It’s a rich visual experience, with images of each bee gathered from research collections around the world. You can swipe through the bees or let them flicker across your screen in an animated film. You can sort by color, geographic habitat or behavior and even create animated films based upon parameters you choose. Want to see only red bees indigenous to the American Midwest? No problem. Clicking on a bee takes you to its backstory, where you can learn even more about your new favorite insect. “What we’re doing is a make a lot stuff that’s available to academics and research scientists available to the greater public and in an accessible form,” says O’Toole, a collaborator on the project.

In the past, people haven’t been terribly interested in bees. Birds and butterflies? Sure. But bees, unless they’re making honey or about to sting, tend to fly under the radar. “Butterflies and dragonflies are very popular because they’re big showy insects and people see them all the time,” says O’Toole. “But there’s lots of interesting behavior going on in people’s backyards.”

Of the 20,000 known species of bees, those showcased in the app are among the most amazing of the bunch. There’s Wallace’s Giant Mason Bee, an insect with a 2.5in wingspan and formidable jaws. Or the optical illusion bee, with its shiny, technicolor abdomen.  And yes, the honey bee is in there, too.

You could take a standalone app about bees as proof that public sentiment towards the insect is changing. Bees are no longer considered a pain-inducing nuisance to be swatted at and killed. With a responsibility of pollinating a third of human food production, bees are far too crucial to human survival to go ignored. So take 1000 Bees as a reminder that we should care what happens to these little insects – not just the honey bee or the fuzzy bumblebee in your garden, but all 20,000 of the buzzing, pollinating (and yes, stinging) varieties out there.

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