England’s five rarest bumblebees have made a comeback in a former stronghold thanks to wildlife-friendly farming that aims to support an extinct bee being reintroduced from New Zealand, conservationists said today.
The five threatened species, including the shrill carder bee which is England’s rarest bumblebee, have spread their geographic range in the south-east as a result of environmental schemes in Dungeness and Romney Marsh.
Around 50 farms in the area have been working since January 2009 to restore habitats suitable for the short-haired bumblebee ahead of its reintroduction from New Zealand where it was taken more than a hundred years ago – and survived while becoming extinct here.
The project to bring back the species, which was transported to the other side of the world in the 19th century to pollinate red clover grown to feed sheep, was delayed after captured bees died in hibernation.
But the work to improve habitats in the area ahead of the short-haired bumblebee’s eventual release has already had a positive effect on threatened species which are still found in the area, the wildlife experts said.