LONDON, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Around 500 bees, fitted with colored number plates were released here Tuesday as part of a study by biologists to uncover the secret lives of bees in Britain's capital.
The bees were sent on their journeys from the rooftops of Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).
Biologists at the university's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences have attached weather-resistant number tags on the backs of bees to encourage the public to identify them and take photos for a competition.
The release of the bees is part of the London Pollinator Project which aims to understand the bees' preferred patches in London, in particular their favorite flowers.
The project has already encouraged Londoners to plant flowers that are rich in nectar and pollen, like English lavender, viper's bugloss, or spiked speedwell. Now, the number-plated bees will enable researchers to see how successful urban gardening efforts have been.
Project leader Professor Lars Chittka, from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: "The fact that the bees have individual 'license plates' will allow anyone interested to develop their own science project, and ask scientific questions about the behaviour of bees."
"For example, citizen scientists might be intrigued to see the same bee return to their balcony and might record when during the day, how many times and which flowers they prefer. They may be curious about what these regular visits tell us about a bee's memory for places and why certain bees prefer particular colour flowers."
Chittka said the hope was that observing the number-tagged bees in people's gardens would raise an appreciation of insects - with individual memories of a particular flower patch, and with unique preferences for certain flowers that differ from those of other bees.
"Once you view animals as individuals rather than anonymous entities, you develop a connection with them, and a deeper understanding of why it's important to assist with the conservation of threatened animals," added Chittka.
More bees will be released by the university each week over the coming months as bee colonies mature.
Citizen bee spotters who take photographs of the number-plated bees in a London bee-friendly garden are eligible to win gift vouchers from the university.