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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 05:48 GMT 06:48 UK
Bid to ease plight of a bumblebee
Great yellow bumblebee (Pic: The Bumblebee Conservation Trust)
The great yellow on a red clover
Efforts to save one of the last strongholds of a rare bumblebee have been given a cash boost from the Scottish Executive.

The great yellow is clinging to survival along the coasts of Orkney and the Western Isles.

Modern farming methods have wrecked the large bumblebee habitats across the rest of the UK and Europe.

Projects to protect the insect on the Western Isles are among those to get a share of 167,000-worth of grant aid.

The third round of Scottish Executive Biodiversity Action Grants have also been awarded to initiatives aimed at helping water voles, black grouse and corn bunting.

They still thrive on the islands because of the crofting system and the machair, the sandy grassland which is farmed in a low intensive way
Prof Dave Goulson

Funding directed towards the great yellow will pay for education programmes about their habitat and also help in managing machair, the Gaelic word for the fertile and flower-filled plains found in the isles.

Professor Dave Goulson, director of the University of Stirling-based Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said modern intensive farming has wiped out the great yellow on the mainland.

The end of World War II marked major changes in farming methods.

One change was a switch from traditional hay meadows, which were awash with flowers, to cutting fields of ryegrass to make silage.

Prof Goulson said: "Historically, the great yellow bumblebee was found all over Britain as far south as Cornwall.

"Now you only find them in Orkney and the Western Isles and the odd one is found on the north coast of the mainland.

Black stripe

"They still thrive on the islands because of the crofting system and the machair, the sandy grassland which is farmed in a low intensive way.

"At the moment parts of South and North Uist is a sea of wild flowers."

The bees' favourite plant is red clover.

Islanders and visitors can easily identify the bumblebee, said Prof Goulson.

He said: "It's big and yellow with a black stripe across its thorax."

Move to save UK's threatened bees
22 May 06 |  Tayside and Central
Project aims to reintroduce bees
21 Oct 05 |  England
Secret of bumblebee capital
25 May 04 |  South West Wales

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