Living With the Short Haired Bumblebee

The British Isles, with a dense population and relatively small land mass has one of the best inventories of biota on the planet. Numerous collectors and scientists have noted species, common and rare. The Short Haired Bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus, was last seen in the British Isles in the 1980s. It is presumed to be locally extinct. However, the bees were introduced to New Zealand as pollinators for red clover over 100 years ago and populations survive to this day. The Short Haired Bumblebee is also in Northern Europe where it has not gone extinct.

A short hair bumblebee queen
Photo: Dave Goulson, Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Extinctions are often due to change in environment and habitat destructions. In areas where the Short Haired Bumblebee once lived, 98% of the wildflower meadows have been lost in the past 60 years. Reintroduction of an extinct species will not be successful if the habitat is not present.

Conservation groups are planning to reestablish habitat and reestablish the bee in Britain. The habitat must first be reestablished and that includes ensuring that sources of pollen and nectar are available. Farmers are coming on board with the idea of grazing lands less intensely and leaving strips of wildflowers to encourage the bees. These measures, intended to pave the way for the reintroduction, have had a positive effect on populations of other species of bumblebee. Bees are important pollinators and efforts to conserve the bees can lead to better pollination and higher crop yields. World wide populations of bees have been declining. Hopefully steps such as this one can help reverse the trend.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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