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Plight of the bumblebee

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  1. Plight of the bumblebee

  2. 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)

  3. Bees in the UK Mining bee, Andrena Red Mason Bee, Osmiarufa Honeybee, Apismellifera Solitary bee, Colletesdaviesanus Tawny mining bee, Andrenafulva

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. The bumblebee life cycle

  8. What bumblebees need • Somewhere to nest • Somewhere to hibernate • Lots of flowers for food

  9. 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% ?

  10. 1900-1950 1950-2000 2000-2007 Great yellow bumblebee Maps from NBN

  11. 1900-1950 1950-2000 2000-2007 2000-2007 Shrill carder bee Maps from NBN

  12. 1900-1950 2000-2007 1950-2000 Short-haired bumblebee ? Maps from NBN

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. Schematic representation range of plants visited by honey bees and bumblebees (showing area of overlap)

  16. 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

  17. Habitats Habitats What can we do to help bumblebees? Habitats Habitats Habitats Habitats Habitats and Habitats!

  18. The best sites for bumblebees in the UK look like this…

  19. …and this...

  20. 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

  21. 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!

  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. 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

  25. Gardening for bumblebees • Nest establishment in spring: • Daffodil • Willow • Lungwort • Flowering currant • Heather • Bluebell

  26. Gardening for bumblebees • Colony growth continues in spring and summer: • Buddleia • Foxglove • Lavender • Thyme • ‘pea-family’ plants • Aquilegia • Allium

  27. 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

  28. Bee Kind

  29. 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’

  30. 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

  31. 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

  32. 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

  33. Join us!