Thurso: Gateway to the Great Yellow is working with communities in Caithness to style Thurso as the UK’s first Great yellow bumblebee town.

The Great yellow bumblebee is one of the rarest UK bumblebees. It is a specialist species, needing extensive meadows and particular types of flowers to survive year-to-year. It is a distinctive furry insect with bright yellow and black markings. Caithness, on the far north east of the UK mainland, is one of the last places you can still find Great yellows in the country. The main town in the county is Thurso, a vibrant and welcoming community with an impressive natural history and culture.

This project aims to create strong community ownership of rare Great yellow bumblebees and encourage grassroots support for its conservation. Through education, outreach, interpretation and wide-ranging practical measures, we have raised awareness of the county’s unique natural heritage, created and managed habitats for pollinators and carried out vital monitoring work.

Our three key objectives:

1. Safeguard existing populations of the Great yellow bumblebee (GYB) and other pollinators in Caithness through active conservation work to maintain, restore and create valuable bumblebee habitats.
2. Record more accurate data on the population abundance and distribution of rare Great Yellow bumblebees and ensure the continuity of recording through greater support of our active volunteers.
3. Educate and train a greater number and a greater diversity of volunteers, creating opportunities for involvement and inspiring individual action.

What we have achieved so far:

  • Actively engaged with 6 farmers, 3 large industrial sites in Caithness, and 4 community-managed sites, offering on-the-ground advice.
  • Produced 3 x Great yellow bumblebee-themed educational leaflets and currently developing a fantastic leaflet called 'Caithness Bumblebee Trail'
  • 139 volunteers had given 161 hours of volunteering to the project up to December 2016, which is amazing!
  • Delivered 3 full-day bumblebee identification training courses to 31 trainees. As a result, four new transects were set up in 2016 by trainees.
  • Ran 4 scythe training courses (two in 2015 & 2 in 2016), with a total of 26 trainees in three different locations. Feedback from these events was extremely positive, and a write-up was covered by the local newspapers.
  • and . . . we successfully purchased a Green Bee 180 tractor mounted flail collector in March 2016. This will be used primarily to manage wildflower areas on community land.

Learning how to scythe in style – Dunnet 2015

Top photo thanks to Neil Cowie.

“Few people realise just how important bumblebees are. They are charming little things and a pleasure to see, but they also do an essential job which many people take for granted. If bumblebees continue to decline then we face ecological turmoil. Join BBCT today and support their important work.”

Chris Packham
Naturalist, Television presenter

Chris Packham
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