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Bumblebee conservationist: Why Amanda is a friend to the bees
Amanda Williams
Amanda Williams is keen for people to realise that bumblebees need help

Amanda Williams has been fascinated by bumblebees since she was a child.

Now she has become a conservationist, spreading the message about how people can help to protect the pollinating insects.

"We cannot afford to lose more bumblebees," says Ms Williams, 39 from Holywell.

"Three species of bumblebee are already nationally extinct. Of the remaining 24, 10 are in serious decline, and two are critically endangered."

This summer a BBC project was launched called Bee Part Of It, supported by wildlife presenter Kate Humble, to create local bee-friendly spaces.

The importance of bumblebees in pollination has only been discovered relatively.

"We are only just beginning to understand how important they are - for example, only bumblebees can 'buzz pollinate'," said Ms Williams.

"For many years, honeybees were used for pollinating soft fruits and tomatoes that were then discovered to be more efficiently pollinated by bumblebees. The efficacy of bumblebees for pollination of tomatoes was not even realised until the 1980s!"

Ms Williams was an early member of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and her Twitter site, Help the Bees, was recently named one of the Guardian's top 50 wildlife and conservation Twitter accounts.

Bumblebee
There are a number of ways in which bumblebees can be helped to thrive

She said: "There is an assumption among the public that the way to help bees is to keep hives - but this only applies to honeybees, so I have developed some tips for people to help bumblebees, because their needs and issues are slightly different."

Among the ways bumblebees can be helped are by ensuring people grow in their gardens a long season of flowering plants, including winter flowering plants.

Ms Williams said: "I have been working on improving my garden for bees although it's a very small garden, a bit messy, and not all of my planting efforts have actually been successful!

"Nevertheless, the small lawn is being left to revert to a piece of meadow, and currently features clover, vetch, selfheal and a number of other species coming up."

Another way bumblebees can be helped is by providing nest sites for them.

"Bird boxes can provide useful homes for bumblebees," said Ms Williams.

"An upturned plant pot with a hole in it, with some soft moss and dried grass, and placed under a shed could provide refuge. Even a pile of logs may provide a home for bumblebees".

Bumblebee colonies are small, with only 50 to 400 workers - honeybee colonies have about 60,000 workers.

And Ms Williams advises against disturbing them should you find a nest in your garden.

"Bumblebees rarely sting, as they are very docile, and will provide a valuable pollination service in the area."

Another way of helping bees is to take part in monitoring bee populations.

For details, contact The Bumblebee Conservation Trust or BWARS (Bees, Ants and Wasps Recording Society).







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