A PREVIOUSLY extinct British bumblebee got a huge boost this week when 50 queens were released on Romney Marsh.
Experts spent two weeks collecting short-haired bumblebees from farmland in southern Sweden and on Monday they were reintroduced to the RSPB’s reserve at Dungeness.
The project, backed by Natural England, RSPB, Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Hymettus, began last year with an initial pilot reintroduction which followed four years of work with local farmers to create the ideal wildflower habitat for bumblebees across Romney Marsh and Dungeness.
Prior to the short-haired bumblebee reintroduction project, the last confirmed sighting was recorded in the UK in Kent in 1988.
The recent State of Nature report, published by 25 leading conservation groups, highlighted the short-haired bumblebee project as a beacon of hope for bumblebees in the UK.
The report found that insects as a whole are one of the hardest hit species groups. A larger proportion of insects are declining compared with other species groups.
Dr Nikki Gammans, project manager, said: “Bumblebees are an intrinsic part of the British countryside, but some species are disappearing before our eyes. That’s why the project to bring back the short-haired bumblebee is so important.
“Bringing this extinct species back to the UK shows what can be done for wildlife by working together.
“The queens we released last year have had a very tough time with the weather last summer, so it was vital that we return to Sweden and bring back more queens to bolster the colony at Dungeness.
“There’s a lot more work to be done but thanks to the local farmers in this area of Kent and East Sussex, our friends in Sweden, a crack team of volunteers and the wildlife experts involved in the project, there is hope for all our threatened bumblebees.”
Last year’s attempt failed due to the cold wet summer.