New project will create a bumblebee friendly Fowey Valley

A new project, managed by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in the Fowey Valley, Cornwall, aims to learn key lessons to help make the UK countryside a better place for bumblebees.

The Fowey Valley bumblebee project started earlier this year and links scientists and conservationists from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust with scientists from the University of Exeter, and local businesses, farmers and landowners. The project is managed by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and funded by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund and Kelly’s of Cornwall.

Bumblebees are wild pollinators, essential for sustainable farming but declining worldwide for a variety of complex reasons. When land is managed appropriately, farmed countryside can provide a home for bumblebees whilst still producing food, helping to reverse pollinator decline.

The project will use the University of Exeter’s Bee-Steward computer model to make targeted changes to the flowers available for bumblebees to feed on across the project area, and subsequently test how accurate the model is at predicting changes in bumblebee populations through bumblebee and habitat surveys.

Patches of bumblebee-friendly habitat will be created or restored, creating new flower-rich ‘stepping stones’ habitat corridors for bumblebees through the upper Fowey Valley and out to the surrounding landscape.

Over the three years of the project the Bee-Steward model will be refined and improved, and promoted for use by farmers, landowners and conservation bodies to help inform management decisions at a landscape scale.

Dr Rosalind Shaw, Fowey Valley bumblebee project officer at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust said: “The Fowey Valley bumblebee project will provide evidence to farmers of how they can best use limited resources to support bumblebees, some of our key wild pollinators. The approach we’re taking will indicate how prudent land management decisions can be taken, which, without, adversely affecting farm productivity, can lead to increased pollinator populations.”

Gill Perkins, CEO, Bumblebee Conservation Trust said: “After two years of hard development work the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and our partners are proud to launch the Fowey Valley bumblebee project. We’re linking academic science to practical nature conservation with the support of a range of fantastic businesses and landowners, many of whom farm in the local area. We’re looking forward to working together to find the best way to improve the agricultural landscape to make life better for our bumblebees.”

Within the Fowey Valley bumblebee project the Bumblebee Conservation Trust will work in partnership with the Duchy of Cornwall Estate, Duchy of Cornwall Nursery, The Lanhydrock Estate Company, the National Trust, Trewithen Dairy, Kelly’s of Cornwall, and the University of Exeter.

Dr Grace Twiston-Davies, University of Exeter said: “It’s so important that landowners, businesses, organisations and scientists all work together to try and help important pollinators like bumblebees thrive across our landscapes. The Fowey Valley Bumblebee project is an exciting pioneering project using our BEE-STEWARD tool to help bees and businesses.”

Steve Kirkpatrick, National Trust, said: “Being part of this wonderful new project in Cornwall, increasing biodiversity for bumblebees across the Fowey Valley is completely at the heart of everything the National Trust stands for. Working with local businesses, top experts and with our team and volunteers on the ground, we’re excited to use the Exeter University computer modelling simulation to assess how crop choices, habitat management and food source availability may increase the bee populations on protected land. Through the Bumblebee project we can pull together to address the decline of the bee population at a time when nature needs nurturing urgently.”

The project will be linked to outreach and awareness activities taking place in the local area over the next three years, many of which will take place at the Duchy of Cornwall nursery in Lostwithiel. Local residents will also be encouraged to plant bee-friendly planting and record bumblebee sightings in their gardens.

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