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Bumblebees to be re-introduced at RSPB Dungeness

26/01/2010 12:31:00

Short Haired Bumblebee. Photo credit Dave Goulson.

Extinct in the UK - Survives in New Zealand

January 2010. Short-haired bumblebees from New Zealand will be re-located to RSPB Dungeness as part of a series of projects at the charity's reserves.

In the spirit of the International Year of Biodiversity, the Society and its partners are reintroducing insect species which are either extinct or on the brink of extinction in the UK.

Taken to New Zealand by British settlers
The short-haired bumblebee was once widespread in the south of England but has disappeared as a result of changes in farming methods. However, populations taken to New Zealand by British settlers a century ago have survived.

RSPB volunteer Rob Jones is currently in New Zealand along with Nikki Gammans of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Based on the South Island, they have been collecting queen bees which are then being reared in Christchurch. Latest reports say the queens are now laying eggs and some of the nests have larvae.

Last recorded UK population in Dungeness in 1988
By the summer it is hoped to be able to reintroduce the short haired bumblebees to the reserve in Dungeness - near to the site of the UK's last recorded population in 1988.

Sam Dawes, RSPB's head of conservation for the South East said: "2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and that chimes perfectly with our efforts to protect whole ecosystems on our reserves from the smallest bug to the tallest tree.

A huge amount of work has been done to improve the site for bumblebees
"The loss of this bumblebee is a prime example of the pressures faced by the UK's natural environment. A huge amount of work has been done to improve the site for bumblebees. We've encouraged the flowering plants they love and it is already a haven for many bumblebees but it is not often you get a chance to bring back a species which has been lost.

Shingle at RSPB Dungeness. Credit Ben

Sam Dawes continued: "We have recorded more than 13,000 different species on our 200 reserves, and only three per cent of those are birds. They are great places to engage with nature and I'm very excited that they will soon become home to some of the country's most endangered insects.

"Although these reintroductions take place on RSPB reserves, none of them would be possible without the resources, expertise and dedication of our partners who include Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, Butterfly Conservation and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. We are very grateful to them and it is great to be working together on some very exciting projects."

Dungeness birds
Dungeness's position, jutting into the English Channel, makes it ideally placed to watch for migrant birds arriving or departing, with wheatears, swallows, martins and warblers regularly seen.

However the unique shingle landscape is also home to also home to many unusual plants and insects including the scarce Nottingham catchfly, which is the food plant of several rare moth species. In the summer the reserve is ablaze with the colourful flowers of viper's bugloss and yellow-horned poppy, butterflies including red admiral, small tortoiseshell and common blue as well as dragonflies can be seen.

To follow the progress of the project in New Zealand click here.

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