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World Bee Day

Lovely bee on lavender
Lovely bee on lavender

17 species ‘regionally extinct’ in the UK

It’s no surprise that bees are endangered in the UK but a new report to mark World Bee Day (May 20) makes worrying reading.

The Bees Under Siege report by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Buglife analysed data recorded for 228 species of bees and concluded that 17 species were regionally extinct – including the Great Yellow Bumblebee, the Potter Flower Bee and the Cliff Mason Bee – with 25 types threatened and another 31 of conservation concern.

Climate change, habitat loss, pollution and disease are threatening the pollinators – worth £690 million to the economy –  following research at centres in the east of England.

The research centres were in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, all home to nationally and internationally significant pollinating populations.

Bee chives
Help to save our bees

Urgent bee conservation measures

The report recommends a number of conservation actions to help stabilise populations and reverse declines:

  • Coastal management plans must protect habitats and sea walls
  • Safeguard and promote beneficial management of wildlife-rich brownfield sites
  • Connect disjointed habitat fragments and promote management between landowners and landholdings
  • Councils should support urban communities to restore and create new habitats
  • Survey and monitor bee populations
  • Increase awareness, advice, support and funding to spread the message about the plight of bees.

The report called on the upcoming Westminster Environment Act to be “ambitious enough” to develop a nature recovery network for bees.

Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF, said: “The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and the fact that our precious pollinators are in peril is a sad illustration of the dramatic decline in wildlife we’re seeing all around us.

Bee on Campanula carpatica
Bee on Campanula carpatica

Environment Act opportunity

“The upcoming Environment Act gives us a golden opportunity to restore our natural world – we need to ensure it’s ambitious enough to do that.”

Matt Shardlow, chief executive at Buglife, said: “Our study found that many of the rarer, more specialist bees are battling to keep up with the changing face of their landscape and increasingly hot weather.”

A Defra spokesman said: “Through our 25 Year Environment Plan, we have already committed to developing a Nature Recovery Network to protect and restore wildlife, and our Biodiversity and National Pollinator strategies have helped to create over 130,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat.

“Furthermore the Bees Needs campaign brings together conservation groups, farmers, beekeepers to promote good practical advice so we can all do more to provide suitable habitats for bees and other insects.”

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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