Conservation team - update!

I’ve been spending some time this week finding out a bit more about the work that our Conservation Team are doing to help the species of bumblebees that are most at threat in the UK. The staff members in the Conservation Team are based in areas of the country where the rarest bumblebees are still found, so their work really is helping to prevent further bumblebee extinctions.

Earlier today, I caught up with Sinead, our Conservation Officer for Wales, who has been at the forefront of some new exciting developments. This summer, she has been involved in a project called the Pembrokeshire Bumblebee Path Project. The Trust first got involved in this a few years ago, when we received funding from the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) to manage the land along the coastal paths in ways that benefited bumblebees. The coast along Castlemartin is an area of the UK that has a great number of bumblebee species – an amazing 19, which is amazing if we consider that we only have 24 species of bumblebee in the UK, and there are only 8 common species! It is home to some of our rarest bumblebees, including the Shrill carder bee, so it is essential that this land is maintained in good condition for bumblebees.

This management mainly involves grazing or cutting the meadows there at certain times of year only. I’ve learned that cutting the meadows too early is bad for bumblebees because it removes so many of the flowers that the bumblebees need for food. On the flip side, not cutting meadows at all is also bad for bumblebees, because grasses can quickly dominate the meadow, leaving little room for wildflowers. The management plan that we created aims to get this balance right, hopefully to the benefit of bumblebees!

This year then, Sinead has been working with Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Landmarc to update the management plan, and add in additional areas for management – more food for bumblebees! She’s also had a new leaflet designed and printed, which provides a map along the coast, showing visitors where the bumblebees and the land managed for them are. You can access this by clicking here. Sinead said: ‘Through partnership working we have been able to deliver more flower-rich habitat for bumblebees along the Castlemartin Range Trail.  The BBCT Conservation Team were delighted to discover a Shrill carder bee and a Brown banded carder bee whilst out walking the trail with project partners in June.’ How I wish I’d been at that meeting – I’ve never seen either of those bumblebees!

Closer to home, our Conservation Officer for Scotland, Michelle, has been battling the dreich weather on the north coast of Scotland. There, the Great yellow Bumblebee (another of our rarest bumblebees) can be found thriving on the machair and other flower-rich habitats. She’s working to provide more habitat for this species, and has recently organised a seed-collecting workshop in Sutherland. This workshop will take place on 30th August, is free to attend, and is a perfect opportunity to collect some seeds from which bumblebee-friendly flowers will grow! To find out more information about that event, click here.

Bettyhill, where Michelle will be hosting the seed collecting workshop

It’s great to see our conservation officers really get stuck into their own projects. Ultimately, we hope that their work will help to conserve the rare bumblebees found in their areas, and I feel more optimistic about the plight of the bumblebee when I look at the work they are doing. Keep it up!

Great yellow bumblebee photo taken by Michelle - let's hope we'll be seeing lots more of these beauties!

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