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Last Updated: Monday, 3 May, 2004, 06:22 GMT 07:22 UK
Nature body gets busy saving bees
Bumblebee numbers have been declining for years
Green-fingered Scots are being urged to help in the battle to save the threatened garden bumblebee.

Populations have been declining over the past 50 years, due to the loss of flower-rich habitats.

Several Scottish species are now deemed vulnerable, including the Bilberry Bumblebee, the Moss Carder Bee and the Great Yellow Bumblebee.

Scottish Natural Heritage has produced a guidebook offering advice on how to be more bumblebee-friendly.

The publication says farmers, crofters, foresters and gardeners can all help by leaving areas of wildflowers, particularly thistles, foxgloves, brambles and wild raspberry.

The bumblebee is important for our ecosystem and I hope this encourages people to take action to prevent its habitat loss and continued decline
Dr Murdo Macdonald

It also says a more wildlife-friendly approach to cutting roadside verges and other public green spaces would help to reverse the decline.

Murdo Macdonald, biologist and author of the bumblebees publication, said: "Bumblebees are probably the best-loved insects after butterflies, and to the naturalist they are of crucial importance as pollinators of wild flowers and, because they depend on the presence of an abundant and diverse flora, they are useful indicators of the health of the environment."

The Moss Carder Bee has declined UK-wide, and is now found mostly in Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and the Inner Hebrides.

Experts are so concerned that it has been placed on the Species Recovery Program by English Nature.

Populations of the Great Yellow Bumblebee have also fallen significantly, resulting in the species becoming confined to Orkney, the Western Isles, Inner Hebrides and the north of Scotland.

Dr Macdonald said he hoped the book would encourage people to act.

He said: "The bumblebee is important for our ecosystem and I hope this encourages people to take action to prevent its habitat loss and continued decline."

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