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Page last updated at 12:28 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 13:28 UK
Dorset is home to rare bumblebees
Sue Hendey, BBC Dorset
By Sue Hendey
BBC Dorset

The heathlands and unspoilt coastal areas of Dorset are attracting a rare species of bumblebee, known as the brown banded carder.

In areas of more intensely farmed land and in urban areas bumblebees aren't doing so well.

Within the last 70 years two species of have become extinct in the UK: the short-haired bumblebee and the Cullum's bumblebee.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust say "urgent action" is needed.

Short-haired bumblebee
Bees are major pollinators, without them plants may disappear.

Bees are 'becoming in-bred'

Dr. Ben Darvill, who is the director of the Trust says: "Generally it's estimated that in the last 60 or 70 years the bumblebee population has declined by 70%."

The UK currently has 24 bumblebee species and six of these have been designated priority species by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

"The shrill carder and great yellow are of particular concern because of their fragmented populations.

"The rare species have become very restricted in the areas that they can use and are becoming in-bred.

"In many cases this has meant that the hard-working females are turning into useless males - an adult male has only one function in life and that is to mate."

Lulworth Cove
Lulworth is home to the rare banded bumblebee.

Pollination

Bumblebees are major pollinators.

Ben says: "The vast majority of wild flowers need bees to pollinate them in order for them to produce seeds.

"If bumblebees continue to disappear these plants will set less seed, resulting in major changes to the countryside.

"It would lose its colour and many rare plants may disappear, and these changes would also affect other wildlife.

Bees worth €14.2 billion

Bumblebees are of great commercial importance. Ben explains that without them there would be little or no crop to harvest.

Ben says: "In total the value of Europe's insect pollinators is estimated at €14.2 billion.

"In some regions where fields are large and there are little or no hedgerows, crop yields are falling.

Brown banded carder bumblebee
Bumblebees are "in crisis" and "changes can make a difference".

"Queen bees need hedgerows in which to forage in the spring and build their nests.

"We want to work in more specialised ways with farmers and encourage them to adopt more appropriate schemes to help bees - because farmers need bees just as much as bees need farmers.

"These schemes will help to improve crop yields as well as enriching the countryside around us.

"We also need to support the replanting of hedgerows and the recreation of hay meadow and flower-rich grasslands."

You can help

UK residents are being urged to grow wildflowers and traditional cottage-garden plants in their outdoor areas and gardens.

Ben says: "Many plants, such as exotic flowers, and most annual bedding plants, like begonias, are largely unsuitable because they tend to produce small amounts of nectar.

"Native wildflowers and cottage-garden plants encourage bees to pollinate. They're very easy to grow and they tend to be hardy.

"Bumblebees are in crisis and these changes can make a difference."





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