Buglife’s concerns over the decline of bees have been reinforced by a new assessment of population trends.
A recent report in the journal Science examined over 100 years of records for bees (excluding honeybees) and hoverflies, from Britain and the Netherlands, comparing pre- and post 1980s records.
Common carder bee
© Jon Mold
The analysis of almost one million records shows a significant decline in bee diversity across the UK and the Netherlands, with declines most likely to be seen in those species with particular flower and habitat requirements, with a single brood each year and/or non-migrant species. More generalist species or groups, such as hoverflies, have faired better, and have even increased their diversity in the Netherlands.
The possible reasons suggested for these declines are habitat alterations, climate change and modern industrial farming. A decline was also seen in insect-pollinated plants when compared to wind-pollinated plants, though there is no data available to prove a link between the two declines.
This comes just weeks after news that non-native bumblebees, imported for use as pollinators in commercial glasshouses, could become a threat to our native species if they become established in the British countryside. Imported varieties of bumblebee have already become naturalised in Chile and Japan with possible detrimental effects on native species, and it is now believed that the same could happen here, because researchers discovered that a Mediterranean subspecies used in glasshouses in the UK can survive in the wild.
With the aim of increasing awareness and knowledge of bumblebees, Buglife will be organising a series of guided walks, talks and surveys in the Thames Gateway area during 2007. There will be aids to identification, such as an online bumblebee resource, training days and recording forms for submission of sightings. It is also hoped that funding will be found to carry out a national bumblebee survey in 2008. If you would like to be involved in the survey, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and you will receive information on the events and surveys as it becomes available.
Biesmeijer et al., 2006 Parallel Declines in Pollinators and Insect-Pollinated Plants in Britain and the Netherlands Science 313, 351-354
Bee declines: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5201218.stm
Non-native bee: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/07/13/ubee.xml
Buglife’s Bumblebee pages: www.buglife.org.uk/html/insect_types/about_inverts_insect_types_bumblebees.htm