Last modified: 03 June 2013
Image: Nikki Gammans
An extinct British bumblebee species will get a boost today (Monday June 3) as a new generation of queens are released on the edge of Kent.
Experts have spent two weeks collecting short-haired bumblebees from farmland in southern Sweden and today they will be reintroduced to the RSPB’s reserve at Dungeness in Kent.
The project, backed by Natural England, RSPB, Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Hymettus, began last year with an initial pilot reintroduction which followed four years of work with local farmers to create the ideal wildflower habitat for bumblebees across Romney Marsh and Dungeness.
Conservationists have hailed the story as a sign of hope for all of the UK’s bumblebees. Of the 25 native species in the UK seven are declining and two are extinct - one of which is the short-haired bumblebee.
Prior to the short-haired bumblebee reintroduction project, the last confirmed sighting was recorded in the UK in Kent in 1988. Another extinct bumblebee species, Cullem’s bumblebee, vanished from our shores more than 70 years ago.
The recent State of Nature report, published by 25 leading conservation groups, highlighted the short-haired bumblebee project as a beacon of hope for bumblebees in the UK. The report found that insects as a whole are one of the hardest hit species groups. A larger proportion of insects are declining compared with other species groups.
Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “This is a fantastic project and I'd like to thank all those involved.
"I hope the project succeeds and we can once again have a thriving population of short-haired bumblebees, not only in Kent and East Sussex, but throughout the UK.”
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