A project to help boost the UK’s dwindling bumblebee population has been launched and it needs people’s help.
The Royal Horticultural Society and Bumblebee Conservation has started work to try and understand which plants and flowers the insects most prefer in the spring.
That knowledge, say both charities, will help to boost numbers of the ‘vital pollinators’ because with a greater understanding of their behaviour, gardeners will be able to do more to encourage them to thrive.
When the weather starts to warm, queen bumblebees emerge from hibernation seeking flowers for nectar as energy for flying and protein-rich pollen to feed the developing larvae of worker bees.
But challenges posed by habitat loss and climate change mean the availability of flowers in springtime has become critically important in helping bumblebees to establish successful colonies at the very start of the warmer months.
There are currently 24 different species of bumblebee in Britain - but concern has been growing in the last few years about dwindling numbers and the significant impact that could have on the country’s ecosystem.
Bumblebees are a vital group of wild pollinators, says the RHS, helping to pollinate garden plants as well as crucial crops such as apples, tomatoes, and peas.
A critical part of the new Bumbles on Blooms scheme involves asking the public to take on the role of Bumblebee Spotters – to photograph and record sightings of the low-humming bees between now and May 31.
Any information gathered from the project will subsequently help boost populations by ensuring gardeners are given the very best and most accurate advice as to what to plant – as researchers understand more about their habits and whether factors such as flower colour – or how urban or rural a site is – plays any role in a bumblebee’s choice of what to choose.
People keen to participate over the coming months are simply asked to photograph any bumblebees they see on plants and flowers, identify it where possible – or simply submit as ‘bumblebee’ if unsure – and send the record to the Bumbles on Blooms project via the iNaturalistUK 2 app or website. More details about doing that can be found here.
Helen Bostock, RHS Senior Wildlife Specialist said: ‘Bumblebees are a vital part of our ecosystem, pollinating our crops and flowers, and playing a key role in much of the food we eat. In the face of large-scale changes to the countryside and the ensuing decline in their numbers, flowers in gardens and parks are an increasingly important source of pollen and nectar for bumblebees.
“This project is an opportunity to give back; the better we understand which plants these industrious insects most rely on, the more we can help them to thrive.”