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Campaigners attempt to save Kent's rare bumblebees

By Jenna Dobbs

Kent has more rare bumblebees than anywhere else in the UK, and campaigners are fighting to protect them.

A new project, Making a Buzz for the Coast, aims to support bees while raising awareness about their environmental importance.

Led by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, the initiative will cover 135 miles of coastline from Dartford to Deal.

Kent has more rare bumblebees than anywhere else in the UK
Kent has more rare bumblebees than anywhere else in the UK

Organisers hope to safeguard Kent's bumblebees by creating and restoring habitats, linking isolated populations and monitoring numbers.

The scheme has received support from Kent Wildlife Trust, Kent County Council, Natural England, the RSPB and Thames Water.

Swale Borough Council and Thanet District Council have also backed the National Lottery funded project.

A celebratory event was held in honour of the project at Hempstead House in Sittingbourne last week, complete with informative talks and a bee hunt.

Mayor of Faversham Trevor Abrams at the Making a Buzz for the Coast celebration event
Mayor of Faversham Trevor Abrams at the Making a Buzz for the Coast celebration event

Nick Mann, trustee of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: "There is a lot of goodwill towards bees generally, but a lack of actual action on the ground to conserve them.

"Kent has the highest diversity of bumblebees in the UK, including nearly all our rarest species.

"Relatively recently you could see these species throughout Kent but now they are restricted almost exclusively to coastal areas.

"Remaining populations are small and isolated due to habitat loss and fragmentation, so are highly vulnerable to population crashes.

Ian Crump from Thames Water at the Making a Buzz for the Coast celebration event
Ian Crump from Thames Water at the Making a Buzz for the Coast celebration event

"We can do something about this and people need to feel they can do something.

"Projects like this give focus and - we hope - tangible results."

As part of its support for the initiative, Kent Wildlife Trust has included a Garden with the Best Buzz category as part of its Wild About Gardens competition.

Similarly, Kent County Council is attempting to find the school that can create the county's most bee-friendly garden.

The exact reasons for Kent's unusually high rare bumblebee population are unknown
The exact reasons for Kent's unusually high rare bumblebee population are unknown

Rosie Earwaker from Kent Wildlife Trust said: "North Kent has a wide network of wildlife reserves and more semi-natural habitat reserve areas than other parts of the country.

"This is a major factor in attracting bumblebees, particularly the rare shrill carder bee.

"It’s also partly climatic, there is a microclimate here which the bees seem to favour.

"Our coastal routes are home to a variety of bees, as sea walls are important and the soil is different nearer the sea.

"We don’t completely know why bumblebees love our county so much but we are doing all we can to make sure they are protected and nurtured here."

For more information about Making a Buzz for the Coast, click here.

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