All about the bees blog

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Buzzing about Crofting Practice

This guest blog has been kindly written by Katie Morrison, a recent graduate from Aberdeen University. Katie recieved a first class grade for her honours thesis in which she investigated how farming practices in the Outer Hebrides impact on bumblebee diversity and abundance. Here she tells us about her findings.


Bumblebees are endearing and charismatic. It is, however, no secret that bumblebees are coming under growing pressure from intensive farming practices throughout Britain. But nestled in the North-West corner of Britain in the Outer Hebrides, rare bumblebees including the Great Yellow (extinct across England & Wales) and Moss Carder are thriving!

The machair of the Outer Hebrides might be unfamiliar to you. Machair (a Gaelic word) is a beautiful coastal habitat consisting of an extensive, low-lying fertile grassland.  Its shell based soil hosts a multitude of flowers throughout the summer but is nearly barren throughout the winter. The floral display is unique across the world hosting some rare orchids, making it a precious habitat globally.Balranald Machair on North Uist (Photo credit: Katie Morrison)

Intensive agricultural is not possible in the Hebrides because of the tough climate (do not be deceived by the idyllic scene above)! The Hebrides is dominated by crofting, a traditional family farming practice carried out on small areas of land, mostly consisting of grazing regimes and rotational cropping. The machair plays a key role in this system.


West Country Buzz update

By Cathy Horsley, Conservation Officer (West Country)

The West Country Buzz (WCB) project, now in its second year, is working with landowners around the south west to support pollinator-friendly land management.


Red storm rising

By Ron Rock, Bumblebee Conservation Trust Volunteer

Don’t worry, to the best of my knowledge we are not about to be invaded, at least not by a belligerent force. However, the forces of good are beginning to stir, nest hunting queen bumblebees are on the move, one of which was recently described to me as the size of a B52. If you own a patch of pulmonaria or early flowering comfrey keep an eye open for a small ginger bee with a distinctive high pitched buzz and whizzing flight for this will be a male hairy footed flower bee. This bee jealously guards his chosen flowers, only allowing females of the species to forage in his patch. This way the all black females gain a protected pollen and nectar resource and he gets to perform the function that male bees are designed for, all in all a rather neat arrangement!

Male red mason bee with white moustache             Female red mason bee, larger black face


The benefits of fresh air

By Laura Shakespeare, Fundraising Officer

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks”
– John Muir

It has long been recognised that a countryside walk, breathing in the fresh air and observing the goings on of nature, can be a welcome tonic to our often hectic lives. It is certainly much more difficult to worry about the weekly office politics when the sun is shining, flowers are in bloom and bumblebees are busily working away around you.

Indeed, there is a growing collection of literature and studies claiming to have definitively proven the positive physiological and psychological benefits of nature on well-being. This has ranged from reduction in anxiety and tension, restoration of attention span, as well as inducing a sense of calm and oneness. Not to mention those gallivanting around the great outdoors, keeping active, are said to be more likely to have better health in general, and particularly be benefitting their cardiovascular and respiratory system.

One such study by both the University of Derby and The Wildlife Trusts, set out to determine the impact of human interaction with nature after their “30 Days Wild” campaign. Amazingly, the study showed that throughout the campaign there was a scientifically significant increase in people’s health and happiness, their connection to nature and participation in active nature behaviours, such as bee-friendly planting or feeding the birds. These benefits were also found to be long-lasting, persisting for months after the challenge ended. Similar studies have also suggested that increased time outdoors for children can boost self-esteem, and be valuable in both building feelings of empathy for wildlife and a sense of responsibility and caring for the environment (in addition to, sadly, much larger amounts of washing).

On a more practical level, biodiversity supports critical ecosystem services for the human population, such as food and raw materials that support lives and livelihoods. Bumblebees and other pollinators are important and cherished components of this crucial link, and provide a compelling example of the partnership between biodiversity and human health and welfare. Pollination is vital for many of the nation’s wild plants and it helps to maintain affordable five-a-day fruit and vegetables, having a direct impact on human welfare. Pollinating around 80% of our wildflower species, Bumblebees also work to support the wider ecosystem, creating the multi-coloured and diverse outdoor spaces we can all gain enjoyment from.

Here at the Trust we rely on the generosity of others to allow us to continue our conservation and outreach work. One company looking to support the Trust in our mission to create countryside rich in buzzing bumblebees and colourful wildflowers, supporting the incredible biodiversity we have in the UK, is Cottage Holidays. We asked our new corporate member for a few words about themselves, and their connection to our beautiful British countryside.

Cottage Holidays draws together the properties from The Original Cottage Company family of sixteen local brands based in some of the most beautiful locations in the UK.

This all began as an idea at the dining table of a family cottage in the heart of Norfolk. Today, that very idea has grown to become the largest, family-owned, independent holiday cottage company in the country with no signs of anything slowing down.

Throughout the family of brands, we have over 3,000 cottages on offer, meaning we have plenty to choose from – this is something that must have seemed beyond the imagination of Richard & Lesley Ellis at that dining table in the 1990’s. Our properties and their locations proudly show off all corners of our beautiful island, from beach, to mountain, to countryside and everything in between.

The properties themselves can be quirky, luxurious, hidden gems, by the beach, in the country, in the hustle, miles away or just round the corner - in fact, with over 3,000 cottages to choose from, they can be whatever you want them to be. All of them however epitomise the traditional British holiday and make the perfect HQ for a carefree and luxury break, getting away from the stresses, strife and mundanity of everyday life and being the backdrop to fun, irreverence & a lifetime of memories.

We care strongly about nature and conservation, a number of our properties hidden within the beauty of the British countryside – making them the ideal place to explore and enjoy our natural heritage.



Citizen Science

By Helen Dickinson, Surveys & GIS Officer

There has been a 'buzz' around the words citizen science for quite some time and the involvement of members of the public in scientific monitoring and research is increasingly relevant in a world with increasing demands for data around the continued loss of biodiversity. Citizen science is an incredibly important way individuals can contribute to conservation in the UK and across the globe. The large quantity of data required to get a good understanding of what’s happening to our habitats and species is something that we need as many people as possible out recording.