The Sunday Species
3rd June 2012
Latin Name: Bombus subterraneus
Common Name: Short-haired bumblebee
Location: Eurasia, New Zealand, UK (28th May 2012)
IUCN Red List Status: Unclassified
The short-haired bumblebee was once widespread in southern England but post 1950’s their numbers began to decline. In 1988 the last individual was recorded at Dungeness, Kent. In 2000 the species was declared extinct from Britain but a reintroduction project has been underway over the last 3 years. Initial efforts focused on maximizing suitable wild flower meadows around Dungeness, which now cover 550 hectares.
The project initially intended to reintroduce bee populations from New Zealand where it was introduced from Britain over 120 years ago to pollinate clover crops. However, genetic studies of these New Zealand bees revealed low genetic diversity and many queens failed to survive during captive rearing and transportation back to the UK. Healthy populations of B. subterraneus exist in Sweden and so it was decided that bees would be sourced from there.
Following successful transportation, and screening for diseases, bees were released back in to the UK last Monday (28th May).
Close monitoring of these populations will occur and lets hope they begin to recolonise the South East of England.