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Bumblebee Conservation Trust launches BeeWalk

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust's national monitoring scheme, BeeWalk ,was officially launched in London this week.

The event was held at Roots and Shoots in Kennington and was attended by more than 30 people including BBCT staff, members and volunteers and representatives from other environmental groups including Plantlife, Buglife and RSPB.

BBCT chief executive Lucy Rothstein welcomed the guests and Professor Michael Usher, chairman of the board of trustees, gave an introduction to the world of bumblebees before David Perkins, who runs the Roots and Shoots environmental education programme, explained the work of his charity.

This was followed by a presentation by Dr Richard Comont, BBCT's data monitoring officer, on the importance of monitoring bumblebees throughout the UK in order to establish the abundance and distribution of the different species.

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Parasites fail to halt European bumblebee invasion of the UK

A species of bee from Europe has been found to have stronger resistance to parasite infections than native bumblebees - allowing it to spread across the UK.

Tree bumblebees, which arrived in the UK from continental Europe 13 years ago,  have spread rapidly despite carrying high levels of an infection that normally prevents queen bees from producing colonies according to research by scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The study, Parasites and genetic diversity in an invasive bumblebee, was published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology. It found Tree bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum) have spread at an average rate of nearly 4,500 square miles – about half the size of Wales – every year.

Researchers collected Tree bumblebee queens from the wild, checked them for parasites and then monitored colony development in a laboratory. Despite the bees having low genetic diversity and high levels of a nematode parasite that usually castrates other species, 25 per cent of the queens were able to produce offspring. 

Scientists believe the spread of tree bumblebees could have both positive and negative impacts on native bees.

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Bee-friendly wildflower seeds giveaway

The winners of our bee-friendly wildflower seed giveaway have been announced today.  

Find out if you are one of the 950 lucky winners.

 

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Hej hej - Say hello to our new Swedish Short-haired bumblebee queens

Nearly 50 Short-haired bumblebee queens from Sweden were released at the RSPB Dungeness reserve in Kent yesterday.

The weather conditions were ideal as the queens were released into their new home by a team of around 80 scientists and volunteers from the Short-haired bumblebee reintroduction project.

The project, a partnership between the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Natural England, RSPB and Hymettus, aims to establish new populations of this bumblebee which was last seen in Britain in 1988 and declared extinct in 2000.

It is the third year in a row queens from Sweden have been released in Kent. Although worker short-haired bumblebees were spotted at the site following last year’s release, no queens have yet been recorded.

Project officer Dr Nikki Gammans said: "We released 46 queens in four different locations where there were foxgloves, bramble, common vetch, red clover and white dead-nettle.

"The signs are good - there are a lot of wild flowers coming into bloom thanks to the work of the local farming community and gardeners. We have already spotted other very rare species in the area including the Ruderal bumblebee and the Red-shanked carder bee.

"We have been out today and have already seen a few queens around feeding so that's nice. Hopefully it's looking good for them."

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Thurso set to be styled as the Gateway to the Great Yellow

BBCT today unveils its plans for an exciting new project which could see Thurso styled as the UK’s first Great yellow bumblebee town.

The aim of the project, called Gateway to the Great Yellow, is to create a sense of community ownership of this enigmatic bumblebee and encourage grass roots support for bumblebee conservation.

Through education, outreach and interpretation, together with a range of practical measures, BBCT hopes to encourage local communities throughout Caithness to create and manage habitats for the Great yellow bumblebee and other pollinators.

The project has already won the support of MSP David Stewart and Highland councillor Roger Saxon who have become Great yellow bumblebee Species Champions in the Scottish Parliament and Highland Council respectively.

Now The Beechgrove Garden's George Anderson is joining the trust's call for gardeners to play their part by planting bee-friendly flowers in their gardens. 

He said: "Bumblebees are so important as pollinators and in many areas are under threat from loss of habitat and forage crops.

"The Great yellow bumblebee, which was once found throughout most of Britain, is now confined to small populations on the north coast of Scotland and some of the Scottish islands.

"Gardeners have a part to play in preserving these precious and much-loved insects - even if it is just something as simple as planting a pot of lavender."

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