Here you will find informal updates on our projects, top tips from our staff and volunteers on how to support bumblebees and interesting guest articles from our partners. Use the category buttons to filter the blog articles by topic.
Research in focus: Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees. By Woodcock et al (2017), Science 365 (6345), pp. 1393-1395. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1190
On the 29th of June, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) published the largest field study to date examining the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees. This much-anticipated study was funded by pesticide manufacturers Syngenta and Bayer, and carried out independently by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) after intense scrutiny of the methodology by researchers at the University of Cambridge.
For the last couple of years, we’ve been working with Scottish and Southern Energy Electricity Networks (SSEN) and its contractor Balfour Beatty at three new substation sites in Caithness. The substations are needed to carry the huge amounts of power generated from the recent upsurge in the renewable sector in Caithness, and also to replace aging plant. Balfour Beatty contracted an Environmental Consultant, Angus Spirit (Envirassist) to make recommendations and write a plan for the environmental improvement of the site after the substations had been built. Angus contacted me in 2015 as he thought the site could have significant biodiversity benefit for bumblebees and wanted to see if there was anything I could recommend. In particular, could these huge construction sites be made attractive to Great yellow bumblebees?
This guest blog has been kindly written by Katie Morrison, a recent graduate from Aberdeen University. Katie received a first class grade for her honours thesis in which she investigated how farming practices in the Outer Hebrides impact on bumblebee diversity and abundance. Here she tells us about her findings.
Bumblebees are endearing and charismatic. It is, however, no secret that bumblebees are coming under growing pressure from intensive farming practices throughout Britain. But nestled in the North-West corner of Britain in the Outer Hebrides, rare bumblebees including the Great Yellow (extinct across England & Wales) and Moss Carder are thriving!
The machair of the Outer Hebrides might be unfamiliar to you. Machair (a Gaelic word) is a beautiful coastal habitat consisting of an extensive, low-lying fertile grassland. Its shell based soil hosts a multitude of flowers throughout the summer but is nearly barren throughout the winter. The floral display is unique across the world hosting some rare orchids, making it a precious habitat globally.
By Ron Rock, Bumblebee Conservation Trust Volunteer
Don’t worry, to the best of my knowledge we are not about to be invaded, at least not by a belligerent force. However, the forces of good are beginning to stir, nest hunting queen bumblebees are on the move, one of which was recently described to me as the size of a B52. If you own a patch of pulmonaria or early flowering comfrey keep an eye open for a small ginger bee with a distinctive high pitched buzz and whizzing flight for this will be a male hairy footed flower bee. This bee jealously guards his chosen flowers, only allowing females of the species to forage in his patch. This way the all black females gain a protected pollen and nectar resource and he gets to perform the function that male bees are designed for, all in all a rather neat arrangement!
The West Country Buzz (WCB) project, now in its second year, is working with landowners around the south west to support pollinator-friendly land management.
It’s been a busy few months, and things are set to get busier now that applications are open for the Countryside Stewardship scheme. WCB is helping farmers through the application process, selecting the best options for supporting pollinators in the countryside. This includes creating flower-rich margins, reducing grazing pressure to allow pasture to flower, and managing hedgerows to encourage plants to flower and to provide nesting space. The majority of the time spent on the project is in providing landowner advice on how to encourage pollinators, either through tweaks to current management and voluntary measures, or through Countryside Stewardship.
By Helen Dickinson, Surveys & GIS Officer
There has been a ‘buzz’ around the words citizen science for quite some time and the involvement of members of the public in scientific monitoring and research is increasingly relevant in a world with increasing demands for data around the continued loss of biodiversity. Citizen science is an incredibly important way individuals can contribute to conservation in the UK and across the globe. The large quantity of data required to get a good understanding of what’s happening to our habitats and species is something that we need as many people as possible out recording.
There is an ever growing number of ways that people can get involved in citizen science biological recording: from seaweed searches to ladybird counts, to bat roost monitoring and commitments from one off, to monthly, to annually, means that the range of schemes available provides something for everyone. See detailed list of surveys.
By Darryl Cox, Science & Policy Officer
I recently went on a trip of a life-time to Australia to visit my family for Christmas and take in the sights. While I was there I was delighted to be able to meet up with Aussie bee researcher, Dr Toby Smith of Queensland University. Toby and I met up on an uncharacteristically overcast day in Brisbane and explored a few different city farms. The aim was to find some of Australia’s native buzz-pollinating bee species.
This month we have a guest article written by Peter Lawrence, a BBCT member and keen gardener. Here Peter gives us a run-down of his best plants for bumblebees in winter. As Peter points out, bumblebees are becoming increasingly active in the winter months when they would normally be hibernating. If you spot a bumblebee this winter, you can report it to BWARS for their special survey on winter-active bumblebees.
‘I don’t know about you but every time I see a bumblebee my morale takes a little leap upwards before it starts to sink again. They are wonderful beasts.
We have a large garden and I try to have nectar-bearing flowers all the year round, so I thought some of you might help with ideas for flowers that they evidently like, particularly for the winter months. I know they are supposed to be underground in the winter, but the winters are getting shorter and I see bumblebees every month of the year in my garden near Cambridge on alkaline soil.
Every year we are all totally astounded by the remarkable lengths people push themselves to in order to raise money to help bumblebees, so when our colleague, Claire, suggested this year (the Trust’s 10th anniversary year) was the ideal time for us to get involved and challenge ourselves to raise some money for bumblebees too – we thought we owed it to all of the amazing fundraisers to give it a go. Before we knew it Claire had enlisted us to join her fundraising efforts and run the Breathing Space 10K in Callander – dressed as bumblebees! She quickly set up a Just Giving fundraising page for team Bumblebods and donations started rolling in. We set a target to try and raise £500 on behalf of the Trust; an amount we agreed would be amazing to be able to raise to help bumblebees.
By Suzanne Rex, Conservation & Volunteer Assistant
I began working at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in February 2016, answering a number of enquiries and helping out in the office. Starting this job with little knowledge about bumblebees and other pollinators, I have been required to research a great deal of information for email replies. This opened my eyes to the huge diversity and importance of pollinators. One group of bees which I found particularly interesting were Leaf-cutter bees, which is why I decided to write a blog about them.