Posts Tagged ‘Bumblebees’

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


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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”.


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

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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

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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.

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guardian.co.uk | The Observer

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Disease and inbreeding might have caused US bumblebee decline over the past few decades say scientists

The abundance of four common species of bumblebees in the US has dropped by 96% in just the past few decades, according to the most comprehensive national census of the insects. Scientists said the alarming decline, which
could have devastating implications for the pollination of both wild
and farmed plants, was likely to be a result of disease and low
genetic diversity in bee populations.

Bumblebees are important pollinators of wild plants and agricultural crops around the world including tomatoes and berries thanks to their large body size, long tongues, and high-frequency buzzing, which helps release pollen from flowers.

Bees in general pollinate some 90% of the world’s commercial plants, including most fruits, vegetables and nuts. Coffee, soya beans and cotton are all dependent on pollination by bees to increase yields. It is the start of a food chain that also sustains wild birds and animals.

But the insects, along with other crucial pollinators such as moths and hoverflies, have been in serious decline around the world since the last few decades of the 20th century. It is unclear why, but scientists think it is from a combination of new diseases, changing habitats around cities, and increasing use of pesticides.

Sydney Cameron, an entomologist at the University of Illinois, led a team on a three-year study of the changing distribution, genetic diversity and pathogens in eight species of bumblebees in the US.

By comparing her results with those in museum records of bee populations, she showed that the relative abundance of four of the sampled species (Bombus occidentalis, B. pensylvanicus, B. affinis and B. terricola) had declined by up to 96% and that their geographic ranges had contracted by 23% to 87%, some within just the past two decades.

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Gardens are able to sustain a greater number of bumblebee nests than farmed land, a study involving genetic analysis and modelling has suggested.

DNA samples were taken from two species by UK researchers in order to build up a picture of nest density and how land use affects the creatures.

Previous studies have shown that bumblebee numbers are declining in western Europe, Asia and North America.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The team said that the importance of gardens tied in with the findings of earlier studies, which suggested the habitats provided a stronghold for the creatures “in an otherwise impoverished agricultural environment”. [Read full article]

BBC Science & Environment News

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Some of the UK’s rarest bumblebees are at risk of becoming extinct as a result of inbreeding, research suggests.

The lack of genetic diversity is making the bees more vulnerable to a number of threats, including parasitic infection, say scientists in Scotland.

They warn that some populations of bees are becoming increasingly isolated as a result of habitat loss.

The findings are being presented at the British Ecological Society’s annual meeting at the University of Leeds.

Lead researcher Penelope Whitehorn, a PhD student from Stirling University, said the study of moss carder bumblebees (Bombus muscorum) on nine Hebridean islands, off the west coast of Scotland, offered an important insight into the possible consequences of inbreeding.

“The genetic work had already been carried out on these bumblebees, so we knew that the smaller and more isolated populations were more inbred than the larger populations on the mainland,” she told BBC News.

“And as it was an island system, it could work as a proxy for what could occur on the mainland if populations do become isolated from each other as a result of habitat fragmentation.”

The study is believed to be the first of its kind to investigate inbreeding and immunity in wild bees.

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BBC News

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