They are a beloved symbol of summer whose presence in gardens and hedgerows is taken for granted, but bees are facing mortal threats which could prompt a crisis in farming and the ecosystem at large if not dealt with.

Dundee University neuroscientist Dr Chris Connolly has become the insect's greatest champion, investigating not only why bees are in such dire straits but also working with the public and policymakers to try and contain the threats they face, from parasites and from commonly used pesticides that affect their nervous systems.

Dr Connolly deserves the university's Stephen Fry Award for Excellence in Public Engagement with Research. Through talks and in the media, he has made Scots sit up and take notice and members of the public are starting to mobilise to save the bee, installing bee houses, cutting out the use of insecticides, becoming beekeepers or giving space in their gardens for a hive that other would-be beekeepers can look after.

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Yet much more needs to be done. If every household with a garden made it as bee-friendly as possible, it would give a major boost to this tiny creature, on whom we all depend. Let 2014 be the Year of the Bee.