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  • Writer's pictureDonna Butler

Bumblebee Conservation Trust: Bee The Change

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust works to support the conservation of bumblebees, raise awareness and help reduce the decline in UK populations.

The gentle buzzing of a bumblebee is the soundtrack to the spring and summer in the UK and many stop and marvel at the plump, furry insects bumbling around on the hunt for pollen. Yet it is hard to ignore the fact that the numbers of bumblebees have been declining, with two species declared extinct in the UK in the 21st century.

There are currently 24 species in the UK with 8 of those being on conservation priority lists in England, Wales and Scotland

Bees are thought to have evolved from wasps 130 million years ago and their cold weather adaptations mean that they are best suited to life in the UK, so it comes as no surprise that this is where 10% of the worlds’ species inhabit.

We know that we should be doing more to help the bumblebees survive as they contribute to food production, not only for humans but for other insects and mammals. Without the expert pollination carried out by bumblebees we would see the price of food soar and potentially the loss of other wild species in the food chain.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is a science-led organisation that informs us how we can play our part in conserving bumblebees in the UK.

Their four main aims are to:

1. Enhance the understanding of bumblebee ecology and conservation

2. Increase the quantity and quality of bumblebee habitats

3. Inspire and enable a diverse range of people to take action for bumblebees

4. Be an effective and sustainable organisation

They work towards these aims in the following ways:

1. Through projects carried out by staff and volunteers

2. Through scientific research in collaboration with universities and conservation bodies

3. Giving land management advice to farmers and other large landowners

The website for the charity contains a wealth of knowledge on all things bumblebee related. The Learning Zone for 4-11 year olds includes many fun activities designed to raise awareness in the next generation.

Memberships are available which not only give financial aid to the charity but members receive a welcome pack including a pocket ID pack and a packet of wildflower seeds.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust also works with farmers and other large landowners giving advice on how to manage their land in order to secure and increase suitable bumblebee habitats.

Amongst the projects being carried out by the charity in partnership with other collaborators is the Fowey Valley project which uses the University of Exeter’s Bee-Steward model on an 1,400ha site in the Fowey Valley, Cornwall. The data collected from the project will be used to refine the model in order for it to be used to influence future guidance for landowners, farmers and conservation bodies.

The best way to get involved as an individual is to join in with the BeeWalk project. BeeWalk is a phenology study to help The Bumblebee Conservation Trust in conjunction with The University of Kent and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to understand the changes in bumblebee populations in relation to environmental changes and track the abundance and distribution of bumblebees.

As a volunteer, you walk a transect (fixed route) once a month and record your findings. The project first began in 2008 and was opened to public volunteers in 2011 and the findings are published in annual reports. The findings are used to monitor long term trends as well as show early warning signs of population decline which will ultimately dictate further research and projects such as the Fowey Valley project.

There are many guides for bumblebee identification available for free and to purchase through the charity's website but for those that prefer to make use of technology there is the What's that Bumblebee? app for smartphones.

The app helps you identify the 8 most common UK bumblebee species using images, fact sheets and maps to illustrate distribution which is a perfect companion for those taking part in the BeeWalk. The app also includes a fun augmented reality (AR) function where the user can ‘place’ a bumblebee in their surroundings and this function also shows the different bumblebees in flight.

No charity would be complete without a range of merchandise including t-shirts, art prints and shoppers. Purchasing merchandise from a charity increases their exposure and raises awareness as well as providing funds. True to its aims, The Bumblebee Conservation Trust sources its merchandise from sustainable suppliers and ships them in plastic free packaging.

By Donna Butler ©

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