Short-haired bumblebee reintroduction
The short-haired bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus, is one of 27 bumblebee species native to the UK.
- To reintroduce the short-haired bumblebee in the UK
- To establish a corridor/mosaic of suitable bumblebee habitat through Dungeness and Romney Marsh spreading into East and North Kent
- To raise the profile of bumblebee conservation through public outreach
- 2009: The short-haired bumblebee partnership was formed between Natural England, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Hymettus and the RSPB
- 2009 and 2010: Attempts were made to captive rear and export queens back from New Zealand to the UK but with limited success. Results from genetic analysis showed high levels of inbreeding.
- 2011: Natural England and the project partners agreed to change the reintroduction source location from New Zealand to a European source. Sweden was chosen as it supports the most robust population and has a broadly similar climate to the UK.
- May 2011: An initial visit to Sweden found suitable source locations. A sample of bees were collected and have been checked for diseases at Royal Holloway, University of London.
- Spring 2012: With the co-operation of the Swedish authorities, 89 queen bees were collected from southern Sweden and put into quarantine at Royal Holloway, University of London for 2 weeks. At the end of May, 51 of the healthiest queens were released at RSPB's Dungeness reserve.
- Spring 2013: 100 queens were collected from Sweden and again quarantined at Royal Holloway, University of London. A total of 49 of these were released at the RSPB's Dungeness reserve. Seven workers were seen during July in the Dungeness area, one of which was melanistic (dark form), proving that at least two queens had successfully founded nests.
- Spring 2014: Following early emergence in Sweden, a further 46 healthy queen bees were released at the RSPB's Dungeness reserve. During July and August, three worker bees were seen around Dungeness and a fourth outside the area, providing encouraging signs the bees may be nesting in the surrounding area.
- Spring 2015: Collecting was hampered by the late spring and a prolonged emergence period in Sweden. On June 1, 25 healthy queens were released at the RSPB's Dungeness reserve. During intensive searches in late July, three workers were seen on the reserve in just one day, which is the most that have been recorded together. They were subsequently sighted over the following four days, indicating that we are providing suitable habitat to support a healthy colony.
- Natural England
Short-haired bumblebees return to the UK
Everyone loves bumblebees and everyone has heard they are in trouble. Nine of the species naturally occurring in the UK are now either extinct or very threatened. Follow the remarkable efforts of the team of dedicated individuals who are going to extraordinary lengths to bring back the short-haired bumblebee to the RSPB nature reserve at Dungeness.