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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

SAP BW BO

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried