Bumblebees are mainly under threat because of changes to the countryside in the UK. Changes in agricultural techniques have meant that there are far fewer wildflowers in the landscape than there used to be, meaning that many of our bumblebee species are struggling to survive.
Causes of bumblebee declines
Changes in the way we look after our land and farming practices since 1930 have caused us to lose 97% of our wildflower meadows.
Impact of bumblebee declines
Bumblebees and other insects are great pollinators and key to producing much of the food we eat.
- They pollinate crops such as tomatoes, peas, apples and strawberries.
- They are estimated to contribute over £400 million each year to the UK economy and more than €14.2 billion per annum to the EU economy!
- If bumblebees and other insects continue to decline the cost of fruit and vegetables will increase considerably.
Bumblebees also help pollinate many wildflowers, allowing them to reproduce. Without this pollination many of these plants would not produce seeds, resulting in declines in wildflowers.
This means we are also in great danger of losing insects, birds and mammals who are all part of this food chain.
What can be done?
Lots of things!
- Gardens cover over 1 million acres in the UK.
- If everyone plants bee friendly flowers and provides places for them to live we all do our bit to stop their decline.
- Provide shelter for bees and insects to thrive and survive the winter.
Nest sites vary between bumblebee species. Most of the commoner species prefer dry, dark cavities and nests can turn up in a variety of unexpected places.
Some nest underground, in places such as abandoned mouse holes, under sheds and in compost heaps. Of those that nest above ground, some make nests in thick grass, while others make nests in bird boxes and in trees. For those that nest in bird boxes, you may often see ‘swarms’ of bees flying around the nest. This is perfectly normal, and these are male bees, which often fly around nests, waiting for queens to come out so that they can mate. Male bees cannot sting, so please don’t be alarmed if you see this.