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Extinct Short-haired bumblebee returns to Britain after 24 years

Flowering fields in Kent will today welcome home Bombus subterraneus – otherwise known as the Short-haired bumblebee - nearly a quarter of a century after the bee was last seen in Britain.

The culmination of a three year reintroduction project, backed by Natural England, the RSPB, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Hymettus, will see queen bees released at the RSPB’s Dungeness reserve this morning.  The partnership will closely monitor how the bees take to their new surroundings and over the summer months, surveys will be carried out to determine bee numbers and to see if they are exploring beyond the release site.

The Short-haired bumblebee is one of 27 bumblebee species native to the UK. It was formerly widespread in south-eastern England and could be found as far as Yorkshire and Cornwall. Numbers fell during the twentieth century and by the 1980s it was restricted to Dungeness and the Romney Marshes in Kent. It was last seen in Britain in 1988 and declared extinct in 2000.

The Short-haired bumblebee project hinges on the creation of healthy bumblebee habitat by local farmers. Using Environmental Stewardship funding, farmers in Dungeness have been preparing for the bees’ homecoming by growing flower-rich borders and meadows essential for a range of nectar feeding insects from bumblebees to butterflies.
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Do you have the UK’s most bee-friendly garden?

This week BBCT celebrates its sixth birthday and to celebrate we have launched our Bees for Everyone project with a nationwide hunt for the UK’s most bee-friendly gardens.

Bees for Everyone aims to raise public awareness of the threats bumblebees face, inspire gardeners of all ages to get planting, and provide opportunities for people to learn more about these hard-working pollinators. Additionally, we will be helping rare bumblebees through active conservation work to safeguard, restore and create habitats for them.

It is very easy to enter our ‘Bee kind’ competition to find the UK’s most bee-friendly gardens. Just visit our new online Bee kind tool which makes it easy for people to get a Bee kind score for their garden or window box. Competition winners will receive a range of prizes and will have photos of their garden included in a Bee kind calendar, on sale for Christmas 2012.

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