Wednesday, 18 July 2012

New Ranger Events Page

You can now access the ranger events from the blog. Just click on the "Ranger Events 2012" tab under the title bar at the top of the page and then follow the link to the PDF file.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Bumbling along or toiling away?

Bumblebees  are associated with warm weather and long sunny days. Even if it hasn't been as warm as we might like, now that we're in the midst of what is passing for summer there should be plenty of bumblebees about for you to discover in your gardens or when out for a walk in the countryside.

Bumblebees feed on and collect the nectar from flowers and take it back to their hives where is is used to feed their young or stored. Bumblebees are much more open to food shortage than honeybees however, as they only store a few days worth of nectar at a time.Because they visit many different flower species, bumblebees are hugely important to our ecosystems as pollinators. As well as helping wildflowers to reproduce it has been estimated that the pollination 'services' of bumblebees are worth something like £400 million each year to the UK agricultural economy. So it would seem that visiting flowers all day is pretty hard work!

Heath Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus) feeding on a thistle flower

Of the 24 species of UK bumblebee only 8 are commonly found throughout the UK, in almost all habitats where there are flowering plants.. The rest are much less common or even very rare; the Great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) is only found in a few places along the north coast of Scotland. Numbers of bumblebees have declines severely throughout the UK since the mid 1940's and two species have actually become extinct in the UK. The decline of the bumblebee is largely due to changing agricultural practices such as increasing field sizes and intensive planting of single crop species (monoculture). This has led to a 97% reduction in flower-rich grasslands from 1930's levels and removed large portions of bumblebees' preferred habitat.

Recently the Bumblebee Conservation Trust teamed up with the RSPB and other partners to reintroduce the Short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus) at the RSPB's Dungeness reserve on the south coast of england. It is hoped that by working closely with local farmers and other landowners to help provide plenty of suitable, flower-species rich habitat in marginal agricultural land, the reintroduction of the bee will be a success.

If you'd like to find out more about bumblebees and how to identify them you can visit the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's website. There you will also find information and links to surveys that members of the public can get involved with, such as "BeeWatch" - an ambitious project that allows you to upload your photos of bumblebees and get help to identify them. This has already helped to discover new populations of bumblebees. The more people that are involved the more information the project will be able to gather!

Closer to home you can also help by planting "bee friendly" flowers in your garden so that you are helping to provide a variety of plants suitable for different species of bumblebee. Other simple ways to help could involve making an overwintering shelter or "bee house" for bees to take refuge in and hibernate over the cold winter months. This BBC Breathing Spaces webpage has some really good ideas to get you started thinking about homes for different bee species and there's a link to a make for a really good one for bumblebee's at the bottom of the page!