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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.

One third of our social bumblebees - seven species - have declined by more than 70 per cent since 1900 and are now designated as priority species. Two - the Culluman's bumblebee and the Short-haired bumblebee - have become extinct, although BBCT is currently involved in a project to reintroduce the latter.

Much of this decline has been attributed to the loss of 97% of flower-rich grassland in the UK since the 1930s due to changes in agricultural methods. Insect pollination in the UK is estimated to be worth around £510m (2012), with 75% of our crop species and 90% of our wild plants reliant on pollinators.

BeeWalk was launched to BBCT members in 2010 and in the following two years, 282 transects - or BeeWalk routes - were  established. In 2012, 122 transects were surveyed compared to 171 the following year. 

This year, more than 250 transects have already been established and it is hoped this number will continue to grow. The number of bumblebees recorded so far this year has more than trebled since the same time last year with 4,010 individual bees reported this year compared to 1,200 in 2013.

So far, 15 different species have been recorded - the same as this time last year, but the seven most common species have all emerged a month earlier. These include the Common carder bee and the Buff-tailed, Red-tailed, White-tailed. Early, Garden and Tree bumblebees.   

After the presentations, everyone went on a BeeWalk in the Roots and Shoots garden and nearby parks, lead by Richard and David.

For more information on how you can get involved in BeeWalks, visit: http://bumblebeeconservation.org/get-involved/surveys/beewalk/

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