The Short-haired Bumblebee (Bombus Subterraneus) was declared extinct in the United Kingdom in 1988. Intensified agricultural land use to feed the growing post World War II population resulted in a gradual disappearance of bumblebee habitat. An estimated 97% of Britain's wildflower meadows, necessary for bumblebee foraging has vanished in the last 70 years.
In April 100 of the Short-haired Bumblebee queens (Look out Liz) were brought from southern Sweden where the native bee population is strong because of natural preserved habitat. The bees were quarantined for two weeks and screened for parasites. Conservationists have spent the last three years preparing a reserve in Dungeness for the arrival of the new queens. The preparation involved the collecting and planting of native wildflower seeds. This is the second attempt to reintroduce the Short-haired bumblebee. A 2009 relocation from New Zealand failed due to a lack of genetic diversity. Ecologists are much more optimistic about the survival of the Swedish bees.
This year I hope to identify more of our native bees. The western bumblebee and blue orchard mason bee are fairly common but this week I identified a new native bee for me. The Hunt's bumblebee (Bombus Huntii) with it's distinctive orange backside is easily observed foraging along with my honey bees in the geraniums and raspberries.