Bees in the UK • Around 250 species of bee • 24 bumblebees • 1 honeybee • The rest are solitary bees • All bees get nectar from flowers (fuel) and protein-rich pollen (for growth)
Bees in the UK Mining bee, Andrena Red Mason Bee, Osmiarufa Honeybee, Apismellifera Solitary bee, Colletesdaviesanus Tawny mining bee, Andrenafulva
What are bumblebees? • Hymenoptera (Bees, wasps, ants and sawflies); genus ‘Bombus’ • Around 250 species worldwide • Annual life cycle • Feed exclusively on pollen and nectar • Predominantly northern hemisphere
What are bumblebees? ‘Warm-blooded’ – high energy requirements = they need a lot of flowers! Picture from Volynchik et al. 2006. Microscopy Research and Technique 69: 903-912.
Bumblebees and honeybees Bumblebees • Wild • 18 social species and 6 cuckoo species • 50-400 workers • No dancing! • Only the queen survives winter • Struggling due to flower shortages - habitat loss Honeybees • Domesticated • Only 1 species • 50,000 workers • ‘Waggledance’ • Colony survives winter • Hives badly affected by diseases
What bumblebees need • Somewhere to nest • Somewhere to hibernate • Lots of flowers for food
What has happened to bumblebees? • 1980 Atlas of bumblebees found widespread declines • Over a third of the social bumblebee species have declined by more than 70% ?
1900-1950 1950-2000 2000-2007 Great yellow bumblebee Maps from NBN
1900-1950 1950-2000 2000-2007 2000-2007 Shrill carder bee Maps from NBN
1900-1950 2000-2007 1950-2000 Short-haired bumblebee ? Maps from NBN
Common species? • Many of the common species were found ‘everywhere’ • They do the bulk of the pollination, so is everything ok? • Until recently, only distribution was recorded – so we know where the bees are • But we don’t know very much about abundance • Common species may not be so abundant, but we wouldn’t know! • Our ‘Bee Walk’ monitoring scheme will help to find this data, but it’s early days
Should we be worried? • Huge commercial importance as pollinators • Insect pollination in the UK worth £440 million (1996) • €14.2 billion in EU • Many wild plants depend on them for pollination • Bumblebees help to support networks of semi-natural flower-rich grassland • No bumblebees = sweeping changes to the countryside • Intrinsic value bumblebee at commercial raspberry flower
Schematic representation range of plants visited by honey bees and bumblebees (showing area of overlap)
Why are bumblebees declining? • Great loss of bumblebee habitat • 98% of flower-rich grassland has been lost in UK since 1940s • Agricultural changes to more intensive methods • Cutting grass many times a year and heavy grazing • Removal of hedgerows and areas without crops
Habitats Habitats What can we do to help bumblebees? Habitats Habitats Habitats Habitats Habitats and Habitats!
BBCT’s work with farmers • Stimulate interest • Promote sympathetic management • Provide advice • Help to get the best out of agri-environment schemes • Demonstrate best practice • Focus in priority areas, for now
Land management • RSPB Vane Farm at Loch Leven • Re-seeded with local wildflower seeds • Now used for food by the rare blaeberry bumblebee from nearby hills – success!
A mosaic of bee refuges spread around the countryside would maintain populations Relatively small flower-rich patches can support workers from many nests, visiting from up to a kilometre away
Gardening for bumblebees • Some bumblebee species are now more common in gardens and parks than in the countryside • Gardens cover more than 1 million hectares in the UK • It’s important to have the right plants that provide pollen and nectar from March - September Early summer Late summer Spring
Gardening for bumblebees • Many common bedding plants are no good for bumblebees or other wildlife • Produce little or no nectar or pollen • Have been bred by horticulturalists to have flowers that look nice, but are too hard for bees to use X
Gardening for bumblebees • Nest establishment in spring: • Daffodil • Willow • Lungwort • Flowering currant • Heather • Bluebell
Gardening for bumblebees • Colony growth continues in spring and summer: • Buddleia • Foxglove • Lavender • Thyme • ‘pea-family’ plants • Aquilegia • Allium
Gardening for bumblebees • Mid- to late-summer fledging of new queens and males – this requires a lot of food • Lavender • Honeysuckle • Clovers • Scabious • Cornflower • Campanula A nest that has not reared new queens or males has failed
Making space for bumblebees • Go wild! Wildflower meadows are great habitat for bees, and can be created in most gardens or amenity grassland. • Perfect for community areas • Will flower year after year if managed properly • More information on these in factsheets and booklet ‘Making Space for Bumblebees’
BeeWalk • National scheme to collect abundance data • Helps us detect population declines • All data contributes to long-term monitoring of populations in response to climate and land-use change • Volunteers walk a 1-2km route once a month between March and October • They record: • all bumblebee species seen • The number of each species seen
How can you help? • Help increase habitat availability on farmed land through sympathetic management • Surveying • the more records we have, the better an understanding we have of bumblebees and which need our help most • volunteers could really help to increase records and collect abundance data for the first time through the BeeWalk scheme • Provide bumblebee habitat in your garden
Join us! • We’d love to welcome you as a new member of BBCT • Membership types to suit all, starting from as little as £16 per year • You will receive our ‘Buzzword’ newsletter three times per year • New members receive our welcome pack tailored to those interested in gardening or bumblebee identification: • A choice of either: • ‘What’s that bumblebee?’ ID guide and ID poster, or • ‘Gardening for bumblebees’ and Gardening poster AND • Bumblebee pin badge • A packet of wildflower seeds • Window sticker