A groundbreaking project will bring a bumblebee not seen in Britain for 24 years back to our shores this week. A team of conservationists have used bee nets to collect 100 short haired bumblebee queens from Sweden, which they will bring home in special vials.

The Bombus subterraneus will be kept in quarantine at the University of London, before being released at the RSPB’s Dungeness reserve in Kent, later this spring. In 1988, the area was the bee’s last stronghold, before it was driven into extinction by a lack of wildflower meadows.

The project will encourage the queens to re-colonise farmland in the south east, and is a partnership between Natural England, the RSPB, Hymettus and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Project Officer Dr Nikki Gammans described it as ‘very exciting’, adding that the aim is to ‘restore a lost piece of the jigsaw for our countryside.’

* Subscribe to Country Life and save 40%

For more news like this, see next week’s Town and Country News pages, out in the shops on Wednesday May 2

  • Malin E

    I read about this project in a Swedish paper and I can’t believe that thise people are doing this! This is a rare bumblebee that might go extinct in this area if they steal 100 queens from their natural habitat. What will happen to all the bumblebees when the queens are lost, have these scientists thought of that? There are not many bumblebee queens of this species left in Sweden, do they want them to go extinct here too? I think this is so reckless and unethical to do a thing like this. Their countyside is apparently more important than ours… There might be a reason the bumblebees got extinct in Britain in the first place, that your environment isn’t good enough for them, so they died. What if we started to go to Britain and took some of your rare species home with us? I don’t think the British would approve.

  • Maria S

    Good idea to conserve threatened species, however, isn’t it a little odd that none of the partners in the project are Swedish?
    In fact, the county environmental director (miljödirektör vid länsstyrelsen i Skåne) states that the species is becoming increasingly rare in Sweden too, and the removal of 100 queens is likely to deplete it to extinction.
    Why wasn’t there a consultation and agreement between the countries before scientists set off with nets and excluders?

  • Ida

    Not very exciting for Sweden though, as that particular bumblebee is already on the verge of extincition in Sweden. They will collect 100 queens from a very small area, and the authorities are furious but can’t do anything to stop them. It’s unlikely that they will find 100 queens, so they will likely take all the queens they can find, maybe that will be all the queens there are = extinction… We have worked hard to preserve this bumblebee, that’s why we still have it. After miss Gammans visit… we won’t. It will put the population at a grave risk. It became extinct in UK because of pollution, as long as you don’t do anything about the causes, these queens are doomed as well. So restore your environment, at our cost.

    This is not done with the blessing of the authorities and it’s certainly not co-operation, and it’s a shame what you’re doing. I hope miss Gammans will get stung plenty of times for destroying our environment for her own purpose. Shame on you!