Short-haired Bumblebee Nests in Dungeness


17 September 2013 Last updated at 01:57 GMT

A species of bee reintroduced to the UK after becoming extinct has nested for the first time in a quarter of a century.

The short-haired bumblebee started dying out in Britain in the 1980s and officially became extinct in 2000.

A reintroduction project saw queen bees brought over from Sweden.

After two releases of queens at the RSPB’s Dungeness reserve in Kent, offspring worker bees have been recorded there for the first time.

Short-haired bumblebees were once widespread across the south of England but declined as their wildflower rich grasslands disappeared.

Nikki Gammans, who leads the project, said: “This is a milestone for the project and a real victory for conservation.

“We now have proof that this bumblebee has nested and hatched young and we hope it is on the way to become a self-supporting wild species in the UK.

‘Fantastic reward’

“It’s been a long journey to get here, from creating the right habitat for them, collecting queens in the Swedish countryside, scanning them for diseases and then eventually releasing them at Dungeness.

“Seeing worker bees for the first time is a fantastic reward for all that hard work but we still have a long way to go to ensure this population is safe and viable.”

A first generation of queens, which were released last year, struggled in the summer’s cold, wet conditions.

But a second release of queens from Sweden bolstered the colony.

The reintroduction project has involved work with farmers to create flower-rich meadows in Dungeness and Romney Marsh which have also boosted the numbers of other threatened bumblebees.

Further releases are planned to help build the population at Dungeness.

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  1. #1 by hares on the hill on 18/09/2013 - 7:36 pm

    In the UK we have lost 98% of our wildflower meadows to industrialised farming, road building and housing development. We have compounded that by destroying countless numbers of pollinating insects with insecticides and we now have a government that would rather listen to the farming and chemical industry lobbyists than to the Environmental Audit Committee and so refuses to fully support the ban on neonicotinoids, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We are so fortunate in the UK to have the RSPB, the National Trust, The Woodland Trust and all the other non government organisations that work tirelessly to nurture and protect what little wildness we have left. The tragedy is that we need these organisations to protect and inform because we can’t trust government to do what is right.

  2. #2 by vetsbeyondreason on 19/09/2013 - 9:11 pm

    While I support any measures that reduce our use of pesticides it is intriguing that Australian neonicotinoid use is at least as great as elsewhere in the world, yet Australian bees have not suffered the die offs that have plagued bees in other countries. What Australia does not have at the moment is the Varroa mite. While mite infections do negatively impact bee colonies their real effects are likely to be more insidious as they have been shown to carry a number of pathogenic viruses. It is possible that Varroa infections weaken bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to viral, bacterial and protozoal infections and more sensitive to the detrimental effects of pesticides.

  3. #3 by argylesock on 20/09/2013 - 2:00 am

    Reblogged this on Science on the Land and commented:
    argylesock says… Here’s good news about a bumblebee called Bombus subterraneus that had become extinct here in Britain due to habitat loss, and which is now breeding again in Kent. It’s been reintroduced from Sweden. Maev Kennedy at the Guardian told us about this reintroduction before the breeding success happened, and clarified the bee’s English name – short-haired bumblebee, not short-tailed.

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