RAYTOWN, Mo. — Un-BEE-lievable — there’s a new app designed to help you identify bee species and help with conservation efforts. A professor at Kansas State University created it.
The app is called BeeMachine. You take a picture on your phone and upload it to the app. Then, it tells you what bee species you’re looking at.
“It can be used by anyone from scientist to backyard gardeners,” Dr. Brian Spiesman said, an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at K-State.
Here’s how it works. The app uses artificial intelligence to locate the bee in the picture and tells you what species it is, along with educational information.
“Once you press save, it saves the location of the sighting, the date of the sighting, the image that was captured,” Spiesman said. “Then it gets contributed to a database that scientists can use to track new populations.”
Spiesman said globally there are 20,000 bee species. In Kansas, we have more than 400 different kinds. He said there aren’t any endangered bee species here, but we do have species in decline, like the American bumblebee.
“I think general awareness leads to better behaviors. More pollinator sympathetic behaviors, whether it’s, reduce use of fungicides and pesticides or just trying not to kills bees when you find them in nature.”
Erik Messner is the chief beekeeper at Messner Bee Farm.
They’ve been keeping bees since 2011. He said bees are critical for their business. Messner appreciates the educational piece this app offers to the community.
Spiesman reminds people bees are the most important animals for pollination — noting they’re are critical for agriculture and our ecosystems.
“Over 87% of flowering plants in the world are pollinated by animals and the most important animals for pollination are bees,” Spiesman said.
Spiesman said you should be safe snapping a close-up picture of a bee around a flower. In fact, the more cropped and close up picture of the bee, the more accurate the reading.
“Especially those bumblebees, they will let you get your camera almost inches away,” Spiesman said.
But Messner said be careful because bees and yellow jackets look strikingly similar.
Later this summer, Spiesman said they will likely add categories to the app so people can recognize the difference between bees and other insects like wasps and flies.