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

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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. 

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Bumblebee Conservation Trust welcomes National Pollinator Strategy

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) has welcomed the Government’s proposed National Pollinator Strategy for England as a “brilliant first step” in getting the issues affecting bumblebees and other insect pollinators on the table.

The Trust, which has worked closely with the Government in drawing up the proposals, said it would continue to play a key role as the strategy moved forward over the next 10 years.

BBCT is currently developing its own five-year strategic plan which is due to be published in the near future.  CEO Lucy Rothstein said the development of the National Pollinator Strategy (NPS) was perfect timing for the trust.
“The vision of the strategy accords beautifully with the vision of BBCT,” she said. “It enables us to embed the vision of the NPS in our strategy but also use our work going forward to influence what is in the NPS.”

BBCT welcomes the proposed investment in science to fill gaps in understanding about the current status of pollinators and highlighted its own work in addressing these issues. BeeWalk, the Trust’s national bumblebee monitoring project, will play an important role in contributing to the information available about bumblebee trends.

The Trust is also involved with research into commercial bumblebees being carried out by scientists at the University of Sussex. At the same time, BBCT is actively working to improve habitat for pollinators – a key issue for bumblebee populations.

A few days ago, BBCT launched a Spring into Action campaign which provides resource packs to help people lobby their local authorities to be more bee-friendly and encourage garden centres to promote plants which are beneficial to pollinators.

BBCT is also working closely with organisations such as the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) and Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) to help farmers manage their land in a sustainable way.

In addition, BBCT is taking forward the development of an ambitious coastal project, which focusses on improving habitats for Kent’s wild pollinator populations with particular emphasis on bumblebees and solitary bees.

“We have a lot to bring to the table in terms of initiatives,” says Lucy. “The important thing now is to fill the evidence gaps. We have a five-year strategic plan that’s going to move this on. It’s a brilliant starting point. The next step for us is getting more happening on the ground.”

BBCT echoed the NPS’s Call to Action by calling on its own members to welcome the strategy and respond to it at: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/plant-and-bee-health-policy/a-consultation-on-the-national-pollinator-strategy

The Trust is now taking forward its own response to this consultation, which it will publish in due course.