Wetlands could be key to saving our bumblebees as they provide essential environment, study finds

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Wetlands could be key to saving our bumblebees as they provide critical environment for some species, study finds

  • A third of the UK’s 24 bumblebee species are endangered, says Dr Whitehorn
  • Return of wetlands could save UK bumblebees, Beewalk data shows
  • Over 500 BeeWalk volunteers from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust collected data
  • Moss, brown-banded teasel and bilberry bees prefer moist areas and heathland
  • Habitat data were used to examine associations between 14 British bumblebee species

Bringing back wild areas such as wetlands may be the best way to save British bumblebees, according to a study.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the University of Edinburgh used data from BeeWalk, in which more than 500 volunteers conduct monthly monitoring.

The team found that wetlands and heathland were essential for species such as moss and brown-banded chard bee and lingonberry bumblebee. Cultivated areas have helped rare species such as the garden bumblebee.

Queens and males were bound to brush, ferns and grasses, which may be good for nesting. Worker bees have been found in hedgerows and walkways, suggesting that they are good at providing food.

A third of the UK’s 24 bumblebee species are endangered. Dr Penelope Whitehorn, study leader, said: “As one of the most nature-poor countries in the world, it’s really important that we better protect our native species and habitats.”

The results are published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s BeeWalk program is a citizen science project involving over 500 volunteers across the UK who carry out monthly walks monitoring, identifying and counting bumblebees.

Data for the study was provided by a long-running citizen science project, which the researchers say is essential both for collecting the data and engaging the public in conservation.

Dr Whitehorn said: “Our study highlights the value of citizen science in understanding bumblebees and their habitats. Citizen science also allows everyone to contribute to the protection of these species.

Richard Comont, scientific director of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: “Bumblebees need areas with lots of flowers available from March to September/October.

Their aim is to save bees as a third of the UK's 24 bumblebee species are endangered

Their aim is to save bees as a third of the UK’s 24 bumblebee species are endangered

The team of volunteers found that wetlands and moorland were essential for species such as moss and brown-banded chard bee and lingonberry bumblebee.

The team of volunteers found that wetlands and moorland were essential for species such as moss and brown-banded chard bee and lingonberry bumblebee.

“Bees lose this vital resource when habitats are lost entirely because they are built on or transformed into other environments or degraded by things like the use of pesticides.”

The study was based on data from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s BeeWalk programme, a citizen science project involving more than 500 volunteers across the UK who carry out monthly monitoring walks, identifying and counting bumblebees.

A combination of this information and land cover data, climate data and detailed habitat data collected by observers was used to examine associations between 14 British bumblebee species and habitat types.

Next, the researchers hope to find out why different species are associated with different habitats, so that the right conditions can be created and maintained for them.

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