Marshes may offer new hope for short-haired bumblebees

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Efforts to reintroduce an extinct species of bumblebee to the UK are set to get a boost with new queens released into the wild, conservationists said.

Experts have collected short-haired bumblebees from Sweden, where they are found in good numbers, and are reintroducing them to the RSPB’s reserve at Dungeness, Kent.

The first generation of queens collected and released last year struggled in the cold wet conditions last summer, and it is hoped the new queen bees will bolster the colony.

Conservationists are also monitoring the area for signs of emerging queens from last year, now the bee’s favourite early source of nectar, the white dead nettle, is flowering.

The conservation project to bring back the bee has involved work with farmers to create flower-rich meadows and field margins in Dungeness and Romney Marsh, which have boosted populations of other threatened bumblebees.

From a total of 25 native bumblebee species, seven are in decline and two have become extinct.