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Climate Change»Short Haired Bumble Bees - The Solution

»Monday, September 14,2009

Short Haired Bumble BeeThe short-haired bumble died out in the UK in 2000 because of loss of habitat and intensive agriculture.


Conservationists had hoped to bring back the species by capturing specimens in New Zealand, where short-haired bumblebees were taken in the 19th Century to help pollinate crops, and releasing them in England.

However even in New Zealand the species are threatened and difficult to catch. Attempts to breed the insects in captivity also failed.

Now scientists have discovered a way of breeding the short-haired bumblebee in captivity, that removes the last major hurdle for the species reintroduction into the UK

Dr Nikki Gammans, Project Officer for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, discovered that enthusiasts in the Czech Republic had successfully reared short-haired bumblebees in captivity by first capturing other species of bumblebees, removing the pollen with a brush and then feeding the pollen to a captive queen.

“The short-haired bumblebee is a very fussy eater," she said. "It needs fresh pollen every day, and not any old pollen. It needs high-quality pollen that has been collected by other bumblebees.”

Dr Gammans travelled to the Czech Republic to learn the method. She will then catch queens in the South Island of New Zealand and rear a number of colonies using the new method.

The bees will be re-introduced in June 2010 into an area of Dungeness and Romney Marsh in Kent which has been specially developed to provide the bees with the right plants and flowers.

Dr Gammans said it was important to reintroduce the bees to England.

"Bumblebee experts have been working very hard for the past 10-15 years to recreate flower-rich habitat in this area and it's working," she said. "Many farmers are keen to help the bumblebees and return some of their land back to flower-rich areas via Natural England's agri-environment schemes."

The short-haired bumblebee project is a partnership between Natural England, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.





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