Rare bumblebee numbers get Western Isles boost

The Great Yellow Bumblebee is one of Scotland's rarest insects. Picture: Complimentary

The Great Yellow Bumblebee is one of Scotland's rarest insects. Picture: Complimentary

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A Harris crofter’s unusual crop planted to help rare birds in the Western Isles has also helped boost the numbers of a rare bumblebee.

The medicinal herb, Borage, was planted by crofter David Jones on the suggestion of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to let rare birds feed on the plant.

However the crop attracted a number of bees who came to feed on the nectar including the rare Great Yellow Bumblebee, one of Scotland’s rarest insects.

Highlands and Islands (Labour) MSP, David Stewart is the species Champion for the Great Yellow Bumblebee which is one of Scotland’s rarest insects.

Mr Stewart said: “It is great to see traditional crofting practices helping to protect the rare Great Yellow Bumble bee in the Western Isles.”

“The species has been in decline since the 1950’s across the U.K. and is now only found in Caithness and Sutherland on the mainland and on the Western Isles and Orkney.”

He added: “I am delighted to see any initiative that helps support development and numbers of the bee as the species champion for the great yellow.”

The Great Yellow Bumblebee was once common across the UK however it is now only found in the north Highlands and the Islands of Scotland.

Numbers have declined by 80 per cent in the last century.

The principle causes of decline are the loss of flower-rich meadows and the intensification of farming and grazing practices.

As a result current distribution of the Great Yellow Bumblebee reflects the distribution of flower-rich machair and locations where traditional crofting practices are still maintained, such as in the Western Isles.

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