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More short-haired bumblebees, once extinct in the UK, have been brought to the Dungeness RSPB reserve.

By Sam Lennon

The latest batch of a bee once extinct in the UK has been released in Dungeness.

A new group of short-haired bumblebees, comprising 46 queens, was brought to the RSPB reserve there on Monday.

The short-haired bumblebee, back on Romney Marsh after extinction in the UK. Picture by Nik Shelton.

Earlier this month, a team of scientists and volunteers travelled to Sweden to collect queens and brought them back to Royal Holloway University of London to be screened for disease.

The RSPB says that a warm spring and a bumper crop of the bee’s preferred early foraging plant, white dead nettles, meant the team were able to collect all the queens in just two and a half days.

RSPB project officer Dr Nikki Gammans with a specimen of short-haired bumblebee.

Dr Nikki Gammans, project officer, said: “The signs are good, there are a lot of wild flowers coming into bloom.

“With short-haired bumblebee workers being spotted last year and a new batch ready to go out, there are high hopes for the future of this species.”

Dr Gammans added that several bee species were in decline but gardeners could help by placing nectar-rich plants to provided them with an ideal habitat.

RSPB project officer Dr Nikki Gammans.

The short-haired bumblebee (scientific name bombus subterraneus) originally faded away through loss of habitat. It was last seen in the UK in 1988, in Lydd, and was formally declared extinct in this country in 2000.

The Dungeness RSPB reserve - new home for the rare short-haired bumblebee.

A total of 25 bees were first reintroduced to Dungeness in May 2012, again from Sweden.

But that effort was sabotaged by that year’s cold and wet summer and long winter, with low temperatures going into April 2013.

Another 50 were imported in June 2013 with greater success, leading to the arrival of offspring workers.

The groundwork for the project, backed by groups such as Natural England and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, started in 2009, when local farmers began sowing wildflowers to create the right habitat.

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