In addition to having its own hives, Helmsley Walled Garden is home to the eight most common species of bumblebees found in the UK. To find out how we were doing in helping to provide habitat for bees, the garden was surveyed once a month throughout the season and the results recorded for you to see. You can see the completed survey data for 2015 by downloading Complete Bumblebee Survey Data 2014-2015-2016.
If you would like to look for bumblebees here or in your own garden, download the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) Big Eight Identification Chart pdf document, or go to the BBCT’s own website at http://bumblebeeconservation.org to find out how important these fascinating and endearing bees are and the threats that face them.
The recent decline of bees is are often in the news these days, as many organisations promote public awareness of the importance and needs of Honey and Bumble bees. We are urged to observe them, keep them, adopt them and plant bee friendly plants in our gardens.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust, in particular, aims to raise public awareness of the commoner species of Bumblebees and needs lots of data on where they are, how many there are and what they are doing. They have set up a national recording scheme called BeeWalk, to monitor the abundance of Bumblebees on transects across the country.
The scheme involves walking the same route of about 1 or 2 kilometres, once a month, from March to October, and recording the numbers of the commonest 7 species seen. Helmsley Walled Garden is now part of this, and I have set up a route and have so far recorded all of the 7 common species in the garden during April,May and June.
Bees are important because they are pollinators, and all flowering plants need visits by pollinators to transfer pollen between plants for fertilisation which leads to the production of fruits and seeds. Without insect pollinators such as Honey bees and Bumblebees, we and the rest of the living world would be in trouble, because they play an essential role in our food production and in the diversity of our environment and its plant and animal life.
They face a wide range of environmental pressures and some species are threatened. These pressures include intensification of land use and habitat loss, both of which lead to loss of food sources and shelter and hence nesting sites. These along with pests and diseases, use of pesticides and climate change are all thought to be contributing to decline in the numbers and diversity of our bee populations.
According to a recent IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature] study of 68 European Bumblebees species found in Europe, the populations of 46% of them are declining. In England, we have apparently lost 97% of our flower rich grasslands over the last 40 years and 2 species of Bumblebee have disappeared altogether while almost all the others are in decline.
DEFRA [Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] has proposed a National Pollinators Initiative for Bees and other Pollinators in England and following consultation is now developing a Strategy to fill in the gaps in our knowledge and to hopefully stop, or reverse, the trend as concern grows that pollinators are declining in number, diversity and geographical ranges of species.
By monitoring what we find in Helmsley Walled Garden we are adding to the body of evidence of the state of Bumblebee populations in this country. But in addition, it is absolutely intriguing to identify the different species, and observe their behaviour! You would be amazed!
There is a wealth of information on how to identify the different species of Bumblebees on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website http://bumblebeeconservation.org
R Sutherland June 13th 2014