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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 May, 2004, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Secret of bumblebee capital
There are 15 species of bumblebee in Neath Port Talbot
The humble bumblebee is creating a buzz in Neath Port Talbot.

It has been declared the bumblebee capital of Wales after experts found 15 different species thriving there.

The county is the exception as bees are rapidly becoming endangered as the wild flowers they depend on grow increasingly scarce.

One of the reasons they are doing well in the region is believed to be the council's policy of leaving roadside verges to become overgrown.

We've got a huge range of habitats in the county
Howie Watkins

Naturalist and broadcaster Howie Watkins, who works as a biodiversity officer for the authority, said it provides bees with a natural habitat.

"Although many species were once relatively common, changes in land use, increasing use of pesticides and loss of suitable pastureland has caused a catastrophic decline in their populations," he explained.

He said three of the species found in the county were among the most endangered.

The shrill carder bee is on the verge extinction in the UK but is doing well in the grasslands of Margum Moor near the Corus steelworks.

The brown banded carder bee is also declining but can be found nesting near the former BP Chemicals plant at Briton Ferry.

Corus steelworks in Port Talbot
The shrill carder bee is flourishing near the Corus steelworks

"The hill cuckoo bee is becoming scarce countrywide but breeding well in the county," added Mr Watkins.

"We've got a huge range of habitats in the county.

"When Port Talbot, Neath and the upper Swansea Valley were brought together in the 1990s it created a county that goes from the mountains to the sea."

He is urging people to take part in a national bumblebee survey organised next month by Rothamsted Research - the largest agricultural research centre in the UK.

"We want people to get involved with the survey where people identify bumblebees in their gardens and look for bumblebee nests in the countryside," he added.

"We might get knocked off the top of the league for bumblebees.

"If that happens I won't mind because we will have increased our knowledge on bumblebees in the UK."

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Bumblebees could face extinction
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