Conservationists find nest of UK’s rarest bumblebees in Caithness

One of the UK’s rarest bumblebees has been discovered by conservationists in Caithness.

The Great Yellow bumblebee – which has the Latin name Bombus distinguendus – was spotted 10 miles south of John O’Groats in an area of thick heathland.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust discovered a nest of the bees while carrying out surveys in the north of Scotland, supported by a £31,000 grant from the ScottishPower foundation.

The project aims to establish the population and location of the Great Yellow bumblebee to help advise landowners on how to restore and recreate habitat to boost numbers of the endangered species.

The bees are now only found in five known population centres: Caithness, North West Sutherland, Orkney, the Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides.

In the video clip and images captured, the distinctive mustard-yellow body and black marking between the wings is visible as the Great Yellow bumblebee buzzes around the grassy area.

Conservation Officer for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Katy Malone, who made the rare discovery, said: “This was a once-in-a-lifetime moment and one I’ll remember forever.

“It’s rare to be able to find any bumblebee nest in the UK, but to observe and film a Great Yellow bumblebee nest is astonishing – it’s one of the rarest bumblebees in the UK.

Great Yellow bumblebee nest. Conservationists have discovered one of the UK's rarest bumblebees, the Great Yellow bumblebee, in Caithness.

“Filming was just incredible. All was quiet when I arrived but soon bumblebees appeared and began buzzing around the entrance.

“I took my camera out and started filming immediately, keen to record the sights and sounds of this extremely rare find.

“Bumblebees do not generally use the same nest each year as they have an annual lifecycle.

“However, they also don’t read the rule books either, so I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on the site going forward to see if it will be used again.”

The Great Yellow bumblebee used to be widespread throughout the UK, but in the last century, their population has declined by 80%.

Experts say this is due to the loss of flower-rich meadows and intensification of farming and grazing practices.

In 2019, residents and holidaymakers across the north-west of Scotland were encouraged to share potential sightings of this bumblebee as part of The Great Big Great Yellow Bumblebee Hunt.

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