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Stay up to date with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s latest news and happenings right here.

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Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s response to the National Pollinator Strategy Consultation

Following the announcement from Defra that there would be a National Pollinator Strategy for England, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust has been closely involved in the development of the Strategy. As a member of the Advisory Committee, our Chief Executive worked alongside organisations such as RHS, Buglife and the British Beekeepers' Association to shape the Strategy.

BBCT has since been asked to provide a response to the plans. BBCT has welcomed this opportunity to shape the Strategy, which has the potential to bring about greater protection of our pollinators. Our Board of Trustees has submitted a response to the consultation, which you can read in full by clicking here.

In summary, our response states that:

  • The Board of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) welcomes the development of the National Pollinator Strategy for England.  It recognises the importance of insect pollinators and that, amongst other environmental policies, the conservation of this guild of insects has considerable economic value.
     
  •  The BBCT considers that there has been a missed opportunity to develop a UK-wide strategy, akin to the UK’s Biodiversity Plan, which involved the three Devolved Administrations.
     
  • The BBCT suggests that the vision should be expanded to include the guild of pollinating insects and to recognise the importance of the ecosystem service of pollination for the well-being of the nation’s wild flowers.
     
  • The BBCT does not under-estimate the complexity of the inventory process for the 1500 or so species included within the term ‘pollinator’.  Without careful planning from the outset, the potential for both duplication and gaps in the data sets of distribution and abundance is considerable.
     
  • The BBCT applauds the emphasis on the use of volunteers throughout the strategy.  However, the voluntary effort needs to be co-ordinated by staff who can oversee the implementation of the whole strategy and, in particular, the communications required in the ‘Call to Action’.  The BBCT encourages ther implementation of the strategy on a project basis, with DEFRA or one of its agencies leading.
     
  • The major omission in the strategy is an indication of the resources – both human and financial – required for its successful delivery.
     
  • The strategy is central to the BBCT’s core mission, so the Trust is prepared to dedicate resources at both strategic and operational levels to ensure the success of the strategy.  The BBCT therefore stands ready to assist in the implementation of 7 of the 18 Priority Actions outlined in the strategy.
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Local councillor takes rare bumblebee under his wing

Thurso councillor Roger Saxon has become a “champion” for the Great yellow bumblebee as part of an initiative by Highland Council to help endangered species.

Councillors were asked to choose from more than 80 different species ranging from a lowly but important soil fungus which helps Bluebells absorb phosphate to the emblematic Golden eagle.

The Great yellow bumblebee is one of the two most endangered bumblebee species in the UK.

Once found throughout most of the UK, it is now only found in parts of Caithness and Sutherland, and the islands of Orkney, Coll, Tiree and the Outer Hebrides, where it thrives on coastal sites which retain a clover-rich machair habitat.

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BBCT welcomes new guidance on solar farms

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has welcomed new guidance which will turn solar farms into biodiversity hotspots.

The guidance was launched at Kew Gardens this week by the BRE National Solar Centre in partnership with BBCT and other leading conservation groups.

Solar farms typically take up less than 5% of the land they are on leaving huge scope to develop protected habitats to support local wildlife and plant life.

Many species benefit from the diversity of light and shade that the solar arrays provide, including bumblebees.

BBCT already works in partnership with Solarcentury to boost bumblebee populations, which have been in significant decline in recent years.

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School playgrounds to become bumblebee havens

A total of 260 school playgrounds will be transformed into pollinator-friendly habitats thanks to a £1.3m award by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The money will fund Polli:Nation - a UK-wide biodiversity project developed by the school grounds charity Learning through Landscapes.

All schools will be able to apply to participate in the programme, which will help teachers, children and volunteers make changes to their school grounds to create wildlife habitats.

This will include planting insect pollinator-friendly plants and building bug hotels and bee houses, as well as promoting changes to maintenance schedules, reducing the use of pesticides and letting areas of the school grounds become wild.

The project, which will be delivered by Learning through Landscapes together with its partners The Field Studies Council, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation and the OPAL Network, was welcomed by Bumblebee Conservation Trust chief executive Lucy Rothstein.

"It's vital that our next generation of conservationists understand the threats to bumblebees and other pollinating insects and have the knowledge, skills and resources to protect them," she said. "A project of this nature has the potential to equip a generation to protect our precious pollinator species, ensuring their long-term future."

For more information on how to get involved visit the Learning through Landscapes website.

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The global diversity of our gardens is playing a key role in the fight to save bumblebees

The most common species of bumblebee are not fussy about a plant’s origin when searching for nectar and pollen among the nation’s urban gardens according to a study by ecologists at Plymouth University.

But other species – in particular long-tongued bees – do concentrate their feeding upon plants from the UK and Europe, for which they have developed a preference evolved over many millennia.

Dr Mick Hanley, Lecturer in Ecology at Plymouth University, said the study showed the continued importance of promoting diversity and encouraging gardeners to cast their net wide when choosing what to cultivate.

“Urban gardens are increasingly recognised for their potential to maintain or even enhance biodiversity,” Dr Hanley said. “In particular, the presence of large densities and varieties of flowering plants supports a number of pollinating insects whose range and abundance has declined as a consequence of agricultural intensification and habitat loss. By growing a variety of plants from around the world, gardeners ensure that a range of food sources is available for many different pollinators. But until now we have had very little idea about how the origins of garden plants actually affect their use by our native pollinators.”

The findings of this study were backed up by preliminary results from the Royal Horticultural Society's Plants for Bugs research project.

The four-year study is the first field research project designed to find out if native or non-native garden plants are best at supporting wildlife – with the term ‘native plants’ referring to those species which arrived in Britain after the ice age without the assistance of humans.

At a conference held by the RHS and Wildlife Gardening Forum this week scientists said provisional analysis of the data indicated that all garden plant combinations (native and non-native) support abundant and diverse invertebrate wildlife.

However RHS entomologist Andrew Salisbury said analysis was at a very early stage and the data needed to be investigated in greater detail before firm conclusions and advice could be provided to wildlife gardeners.

Read more about the Plymouth University study

Click here for more advice on gardening for bees.