New report reveals dramatic declines in South West’s struggling bees

Thursday 3rd April 2014

A new report on bees in South West England by nature conservation charity Buglife reveals that up to 75% of some of our most threatened bee species have been lost in some counties.

The South West Bees Report researched 23 species considered to be at risk in the UK, twenty are declining whilst three have become extinct.

Andrew Whitehouse, South West Manager at Buglife said “The South West remains a stronghold for some of the UK’s most threatened bee species.  But, over the past 50 years we have seen the local extinction of many of the region’s special bees. Some are precariously holding on, such as the Six-banded nomad bee (Nomada sexfasciata) which has all but disappeared from the UK, except for a last remaining site in South Devon”.

Wild bees and other insect pollinators are faced with a perfect storm of pressures which have all led to their decline, these include: a loss of wildflower-rich natural and semi-natural habitats through the intensification of farming, increased use of pesticides, the loss of bee habitats to development, unpredictable and extreme weather resulting from climate change. As a result half of the UK’s 27 bumblebee species are in decline, two-thirds of our moths and over 70% of our butterflies are in long-term decline.

Whilst it is known that bee species have declined at a national level, until the publication of this new report, no assessment has been made at the finer scale of region and county.  National assessments can obscure trends at more local scales as can be seen from the results of the report.  For example, Large garden bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus) is still found in the South West, in Gloucestershire and Somerset, but over the past 50 years has disappeared from Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.

Andrew said “We need to take urgent action to reverse the declines in our bees.  By making space for wildlife in our countryside and restoring the wildflower-rich habitats that bees rely upon we can offer hope for our region’s bees.  However, Buglife cannot do this alone, and we call upon others to work with us to get the South West buzzing!”

Buglife have recently launched a Get Britain Buzzing Pollinator Manifesto, a seven point plan to protect bees and other pollinating insects. The declines in our pollinators can be reversed by recreating lost flower-rich habitats and connecting up those that remain, helping bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other wildlife move through our landscape. Our B-Lines projects will do exactly that by creating and restoring permanent wildflower-rich habitat, as ‘stepping stones’ or continuous strips of habitat. We will be launching new B-Lines projects in the South West in the near future in collaboration with other local partner organisations.

A summary report has also been drafted – The South West Bees Report – Summary