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The first batch of the short-haired bumblebee Bombus subterraneus are due for release at RSPB Dungeness tomorrow, Monday 28th May. The event is due to be captured live on BBC Breakfast TV.

For more info on the reintroduction project see the latest Guardian article below:

Bumblebee lost to UK makes comeback on Dungeness shingle

Natural History Museum scientist leads reintroduction of Bombus subterraneus with insects imported from Sweden

The view is bordered by an airport, an army firing range, a sewage treatment plant and Dungeness nuclear power station, but Nikki Gammans hopes that the whole field looks like one gigantic banquet of flowering plants to a short-haired bumblebee.

In 1988 a scientist from the Natural History Museum saw a short-haired bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus, sitting on a pile of shingle. The species was already rare but he had no reason to think it was a historic encounter. In fact, the bee was never seen again and was declared extinct in the UK 12 years ago.

That status should now be changing. On Monday Gammans will take a small plastic box from the fridge in her camper van, and a group of slightly puzzled Swedish short-haired queens will tumble out into the Kent sunshine. The hope is that they make a beeline for the red clover, white dead nettle, yellow flag, tufted vetches and eggs-and-bacon, all bursting into bloom after a week of May sunshine.

“We hope, we believe, this is the absolutely perfect spot for them,” Gammans said. “It has everything they like. There is no reason why they shouldn’t thrive – they’re pretty tough girls.

“This is a flagship project, a scientific first, but also a symbol that it isn’t all hopeless: we don’t have to stand by helplessly watching species and habitat being lost.” [Read full article]

“Sarah Raven is on a mission to halt the decline in honey bees and insect pollinators with insect friendly flower power in this three part series”

Not to be missed: Bees, Butterflies and Blooms

Also in a related article: Scientist’s highlights efforts to get bees buzzing

The great British public has helped scientists uncover what looks like a substantial decline in one of the UK’s most common bumblebees over the last 20 years.

By gathering valuable information about the insects, citizen scientists from across Britain have shown that the common carder-bee made up less than 10 per cent of bumblebee colonies from 2007 to 2009.

Just 20 years previously, they made up a whopping 21 per cent. [Read full article]

From Planet Earth Online

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Steven Falk has produced the following publication on the bumblebees of Warwickshire, and says “whilst focussed on Warwickshire, much of the information, plus the photo-gallery at the end, will serve those interested in bumblebee recording and conservation throughout Britain”.

WARWICKSHIRE’S BUMBLEBEES
Introduction

Bumblebees are some of our most easily recognised insects, and they serve a vitally important role as pollinators of wild and cultivated plants. In the latter role, they are vital for local fruit and seed production in orchards, allotments and gardens. They help pollinate our apples, pears, plums, raspberries and important crops including Oil-seed Rape, Pea and Broad Bean. But like so many other important pollinators such as hoverflies, moths and butterflies, bumblebees are not having a particularly easy time in Britain’s intensively managed countryside. Several species have completely disappeared from Warwickshire and other parts of central Britain, whilst others are currently scarce and vulnerable. This publication places the spotlight on this attractive group of insects, helping you to identify, understand and conserve them.

Click here to read full publication (PDF)

Click here for other publications on the natural history of Warwickshire

A SURVEY OF THE BEES AND WASPS OF FIFTEEN CHALK GRASSLAND AND CHALK HEATH SITES WITHIN THE EAST SUSSEX SOUTH DOWNS

Steven Falk, 2011

Abstract

For six years between 2003 and 2008, over 100 site visits were made to fifteen chalk grassland and chalk heath sites within the South Downs of Vice-county 14 (East Sussex). This produced a list of 227 bee and wasp species and revealed the comparative frequency of different species, the comparative richness of different sites and provided a basic insight into how many of the species interact with the South Downs at a site and landscape level. The study revealed that, in addition to the character of the semi-natural grasslands present, the bee and wasp fauna is also influenced by the more intensively-managed agricultural landscapes of the Downs, with many species taking advantage of blossoming hedge shrubs, flowery fallow fields, flowery arable field margins, flowering crops such as Rape, plus plants such as buttercups, thistles and dandelions within relatively improved pasture. Some very rare species were encountered, notably the bee Halictus eurygnathus Blüthgen which had not been seen in Britain since 1946. This was eventually recorded at seven sites and was associated with an abundance of Greater Knapweed. The very rare bees Anthophora retusa (Linnaeus) and Andrena niveata Friese were also observed foraging on several dates during their flight periods, providing a better insight into their ecology and conservation requirements. There was evidence that the low coverage of unimproved chalk grassland on the South Downs today following much loss and fragmentation in the last century may have resulted in some serious declines of certain bees and wasps and several probable local extinctions.

Cite as: Falk, S.J. 2011. A Survey of the bees and wasps of fifteen chalk grassland and chalk heath sites within the East Sussex South Downs. 76 pages. Selfpublished.

Report downloadable from the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre:

http://sxbrc.org.uk/publications/East_Sussex_Bees_Wasps_Survey_Falk_2011.pdf

Also the Bee, Wasp and Ant Recording Society website: www.bwars.com

BBCT Fundraising Success

From the Bumblebee Conservation Trust:

BREAKING NEWS – Fundraising success

We have just heard the fantastic news that we have received £340,000 in funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund in support of our three-year Bees for Everyone project.

This funding adds to grants and donations from Scottish Natural Heritage, an anonymous CAF donor and several other generous supporters. It takes us to within reach of our fundraising target.

The Bees for Everyone project is only now beginning, but over the next three years this ambitious project will build on the most successful elements of our work to date in order to:

1) support rare bumblebees throughout the UK through active conservation work to safeguard, restore and create valuable bumblebee habitats

2) raise public awareness of the importance of bumblebees and the problems that they face, inspiring individual action

In practical terms, as the project progresses, this will mean more flower-rich habitat, more events, more opportunities for learning and participation and significant improvements and refinements in many other areas.

There is a lot of hard work ahead before we reach these aims, but we nevertheless hope that you will join us in celebrating this significant success. Thank you to everyone who has played a role in supporting our work to date.

Dr. Ben Darvill
Chief Executive Officer

BBCT would like to acknowledge the generous support of the following funders:

The Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage, Anonymous CAF donor, John Spedan Lewis Foundation, S G Charitable Trust, Ernest Cook Trust, Ernest Kleinwort CT

Bumblebee Conservation Trust News

A useful introductory guide to native bees of the US including some nice illustrations:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5306468.pdf

Published by the USDA Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership.

UC Davis Entomologist Lynn Kimsey Discovers New Species of Wasp: Gigantic Wasp With Long, Powerful Jaws

DAVIS–A warrior wasp? A wasp with jaws longer than its front legs?

The new species of wasp that Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, discovered on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, has scientists abuzz.

The jaw-dropping, shiny black wasp appears to be the “Komodo dragon” of the wasp family.

It’s huge. The male measures about two-and-a-half-inches long, Kimsey said. “Its jaws are so large that they wrap up either side of the head when closed. When the jaws are open they are actually longer than the male’s front legs. I don’t know how it can walk. The females are smaller but still larger than other members of their subfamily, Larrinae.”

Kimsey discovered the warrior wasp on the Mekongga Mountains in southeastern Sulawesi on a recent biodiversity expedition funded by a five-year grant from the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program.

[Read full article]

Most of us are aware of the crisis facing the honeybee, but there are hundreds of lesser known species that need help.

On a rainy, windswept summer’s afternoon I find myself on the banks of the river Thames in Barking, east London, with a tape measure in hand, adjudicating at a Guinness world record attempt. I have been asked to measure the length, height and depth of a large wooden structure made out of more than 20,000 pieces of bamboo and 200 logs. It has taken local volunteers three weeks to cut, saw and drill into the wood and create what they hope will be the world’s largest bee house.

There is enough room in its interior for hundreds of residents who, it is hoped, will make their nests in the numerous holes and tunnels in the wood. Yet few if any of these bees will be recognisable to the public, for none of them make honey for our consumption, nor spend the summer buzzing from one brightly coloured flower to the next in our parks and gardens.

These lesser known bees are solitary insects that, as their name suggests, live alone rather than in large colonies like honeybees or bumblebees. Many survive for just a few weeks – enough time to mate, make a nest and lay their eggs. But, like their more sociable cousins, they perform vital pollination services while they busily collect nectar and pollen from plants to feed their offspring.

[Read full article]

guardian.co.uk | The Observer

Bumblebees, solitary bees and other wild pollinating insects are much more important for pollinating UK crops than previously thought, say researchers.

They found that honeybee populations have nose-dived so dramatically in recent years that they can only do half as much pollination as they did in the early 1980s.

Where honeybees used to provide around 70 per cent of the UK’s pollination needs they now only pollinate a third. At worst, that figure could well be more like 10 to 15 per cent.

Paradoxically over the last 20 years, the proportion of UK crops that rely on insects for pollination has risen from just under 8 per cent in the early 1980s to 20 per cent in 2007. And over the same period, yields of insect-pollinated crops, which include oil seed rape and field bean, have gone up by 54 per cent.

This means that honeybees can’t be solely responsible, or aren’t the only important pollinator.

So if honeybees aren’t pollinating the crops, what is? The researchers think that other important pollinating insects, such as bumblebees, hoverflies and solitary bees must be making up the shortfall.

‘Our finding suggests that wild insect pollinators make a much bigger contribution to UK crop pollination than previously thought,’ says Tom Breeze from the University of Reading, lead author of the study.

[Read full article]

Planet Earth Online

Research paper: T.D. Breeze, A.P. Bailey, K.G. Balcombe and S.G. Potts, Pollination services in the UK: How important are honeybees?, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, published online 20 May 2011, doi:10.1016/j.agee.2011.03.020