A nation of bumblebee lovers: Pledges of support flood in for threatened insect

A A A

Britain is a nation of bumblebee lovers, it rapidly became clear yesterday after The Independent highlighted the insects' plight. The newly formed Bumblebee Conservation Trust, which this newspaper is backing, was flooded with inquiries from people wanting to join, and do whatever they could to help a vital group of species, which are now increasingly in trouble.

"We've had a constant flux of e-mails, loads of inquiries, in fact one every few minutes," said the BBCT's director, Professor Dave Goulson of the University of Stirling, who is Britain's leading academic bumblebee expert. "It's all very hectic. It would seem we have tapped into a well of concern that's out there for bumblebees."

Although bumblebees are extremely popular, many people have been surprised to learn how seriously some of them are in decline. Their shrinking numbers are largely due to the degradation of their traditional countryside habitats, such as hay meadows and chalk grassland, through intensive farming and the introduction of non-native plants into British gardens.

Already three of the 25 species originally found in the UK have gone extinct - the most recent being the short-haired bumblebee, last seen on the Kent coast in 1988 - and conservationists fear more are in imminent danger if action is not taken quickly.

Members of the trust will shortly receive its first newsletter and the first suggested piece of conservation action they can take part in - the search for the most beautiful of the British bumblebee family, the bilberry bumblebee (known in Scotland as the blaeberry bumblebee). This mountain and moorland species (it is the one used in the BBCT's logo) is found on Dartmoor and Exmoor in the south, and in the mountains of Wales, northern England and Scotland. Its real stronghold is the Cairngorms, where it is still quite common.

Like many of our bumblebees, it seems to be in decline, especially in the south, although it is not known why, or how much it has declined. So one of Professor Goulson's research students at Stirling, Jennifer Harrison-Cripps, is starting a PhD to try to find out more about the ecology of the species. She has toured museum collections compiling historical records of where the bilberry bumblebee used to occur. What she wants to do next is find out where the species survives today, and for this she needs the help of amateur enthusiasts.

Members of the trust who live in the hillier parts of Britain, or are likely to visit them on holiday in the summer, are being asked to keep an eye out for this bee and record sightings.

It is very distinctive as it is the only British bumblebee in which the majority of the abdomen is orange (some species have a red/orange tail, covering no more than a third of the abdomen).

Trust members are being asked to send records (date, grid reference, plus other observations such as what flower it was visiting) by post to the BBCT, or to jennifer.harrison-cripps@stir.ac.uk. If you prefer, recording sheets can be downloaded from the trust's website ( www.bumblebeeconservationtrust.co.uk). It is hoped that an accurate picture can be built up of how many populations of this species still survive, to help develop sensible conservation strategies.

Professor Goulson said yesterday he had also received inquiries about the trust from the France, the US and India. He said: "It's clear that people have an empathy for bumblebees. Perhaps it's because they're big and furry - rather mammal-like. Whatever the reason, there is a definite soft spot for bumblebees, and people are sad to hear that they are not doing so well."

* The paintings of different bumblebee species in The Independent yesterday were done by Tony Hopkins.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss