Page last updated at 23:10 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 00:10 UK

Rare bumblebees fly to sanctuary

Bumblebee sanctuary  (Picture: Uwe Stoneman)
The flower meadow attracts bees, hoverflies, other insects and birds

Conservationists have created what they believe is the world's first sanctuary for bumblebees in Perth and Kinross.

The flowery meadow at the Vane Farm nature reserve beside Loch Leven is already attracting several rare and threatened species.

It is hoped that flowering plants and birds will also benefit from the knock-on effect.

The meadow was created by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) in partnership with RSPB Scotland.

Dr Ben Darvill from the BBCT said: "Wildflowers and crops alike depend on the hard work of our endearing bumblebees, but sadly many species are now under threat.

"Habitat loss has already led to the extinction of three species, and several more are severely threatened.

"Hay meadows and clover leys are now seldom seen in today's farmland, leaving little for bumblebees to feed on, so both farmers and conservationists need to do what they can to help."

Bumblebees are often referred to as key-stone species, because the loss of their pollination services could have a devastating impact on the whole ecosystem
Dr Dave Beaumont
RSPB Scotland

Hundreds of the bumblebees are buzzing from flower to flower in the meadow, including the rare blaeberry bumblebee, lured down from nearby hills.

It is hoped that one day the critically endangered Great Yellow bumblebee might also be persuaded to return.

Butterflies, hoverflies and other insects are also using the meadow - and the abundant bug life is benefiting the swallows and skylarks which feed on them.

Dr Dave Beaumont, head of reserves ecology for RSPB Scotland, believes that helping bumblebees is an essential part of managing the plant, bird and animal life around us.

He said: "Seeing and hearing the multitude of bumblebees, butterflies and hoverflies visiting the patchwork of reds, yellows and blues and smelling the air reminds me of what we have lost from much of the countryside, without even thinking of the actual species involved.

"The balance of nature can be very sensitive to disturbance. Bumblebees are often referred to as key-stone species, because the loss of their pollination services could have a devastating impact on the whole ecosystem.

"By ensuring we have healthy bumblebee populations on our reserves, we ensure that the habitat itself is healthy, which in turn is good for the birds."

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