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Bumblebees: Back by popular demand

Expedition underway to retrieve bumblebee queens from New Zealand.
Unique bumblebee field guide is revised and republished in response to public request.

A new phase of the international rescue mission for the short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus) gets underway this week, as project officer Nikki Gammans departs for New Zealand to retrieve queen bees for re-introduction to England next year.

To mark the occasion, a newly revised version of the popular Field Guide to Bumblebees by Martin Jenner and Mike Edwards, sponsored by Natural England, is launched today (Wednesday 11 November). The guide features new pages on the short-haired bumblebee in anticipation of its arrival home to the South East of England.

Dr Nikki Gammans, project officer for the reintroduction partnership, which includes Natural England, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, RSPB and Hymettus, said: “This is a pivotal stage in the reintroduction project. A team of volunteers will join me in searching for queens of the short-haired bumblebee which will be bred at Plant and Food in New Zealand and the next generation of queens will be returned to the UK for release in 2010”.

The only publication of its kind, The Field Guide to Bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland, uses photographs, a unique Quick Identification Chart and symbols to help the reader identify species. The decision to revise and reprint the guide responds to public demand. The last remaining copies of the previous edition were selling for around £100 online, ten times that of the normal retail amount.

Martin Jenner, bumblebee expert and co-author of the field guide, said: “The guide has been important because it has made bumblebee identification accessible to people from all walks of life, and thus has helped provide much needed research data – crucial for bumblebee conservation.

Bombus subterraneus is included because it will be essential for researchers to be able to identify the species in the future; we need to know why it is declining in Europe and invaluable research data will become available through this reintroduction. My ultimate wish is that everyone, in due course, will be able to see all the rarer bumblebees species back in their former haunts!”

Natural England sponsors both the re-introduction project and the field guide.

Dr Tom Tew, Chief Scientist for Natural England, said: “Bumblebees have had a tough time over the last few decades, with over half of our 25 species of bumblebee now in decline and two already extinct in England. These are important species, not least for the role they play in pollinating the crops that provide us with food.

“The field guide is an important tool for bumblebee fans and by providing funds for the short haired bumblebee conservation project will have a direct impact in helping restore one of England’s lost bumblebee species and creating habitats to benefit all pollinators.”

Dr Gammans will be selling the Field Guide to Bumblebees at speaking events around the country next year, all proceeds of which will go back into the re-introduction of the Short-haired bumblebee project.

Notes to editors:

For further information, interviews and photographs contact:
Beth Rose, senior press officer at Natural England: 0300 060 1405 or 07900 608052 or beth.rose@naturalengland.org.uk

For copies of the book, please contact the author: Martin Jenner: +44 (0)1323 521250 or formula@ocelli.co.uk

1. The short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus) became extinct in England in 2000, but for over a century a small number of the original English population has clung on in New Zealand, having been transported there in the late nineteenth century to pollinate crops of red clover. The bees were shipped aboard the first refrigerated lamb boats, and established small populations in the south island of New Zealand, which remain unprotected and under threat.

2. Field Guide to the Bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland
Mike Edwards and Martin Jenner. ISBN 978-0954971311. 108 pages with over 90 colour photographs. www.ocelli.co.uk.

Includes:

  • How to identify the majority of the bumblebees species in the field

  • Easy-to-use Quick Identification Chart

  • 25 species described, with colour photographs of both sexes, plus life history

  • Cross-referencing system with symbols to help more accurate identification

  • Habitat requirements for conservation action and how to attract bumblebees to your garden

3. About Natural England

Natural England is the government’s independent advisor on the natural environment. Our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.

We establish and care for England’s main wildlife sites, ensuring that over 3,500 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.

We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Marine Conservation Zones, and advising widely on their conservation.

We run England’s Environmental Stewardship green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England.

We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats. We have recently committed £6m to develop wetland areas and have detailed biodiversity action plans covering 75% of England’s species.

We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them

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