From New Scientist:
‘Extinct’ British subject repatriated after 100 years
* 10:00 07 September 2009 by Sanjida O’Connell
A British subject transported to New Zealand a century ago will shortly be repatriated. The short-haired bumblebee was sent to the antipodes to pollinate red clover – it was originally transported with a cargo of lamb in 1875 in one of the first refrigerated ships. However, the bee subsequently died out in its native country: last seen in 1988, it was declared extinct in the UK in 2000.
Efforts to reintroduce the bee have been thwarted by failures in captive breeding and by “bee jet lag” – the inability of long-haul bees to adapt to the sudden hemisphere shift.
The situation has recently become urgent. The short-haired bumblebee thrives on another non-native species, viper’s bugloss, but the New Zealand government is about to embark on a programme to eradicate this plant.
Fortunately, Czech bumblebee enthusiast Jaromír Čížek has at last succeeded in getting the bees to breed in captivity.
His breakthrough was to feed captive queens exclusively with bumblebee instead of honeybee pollen, as had previously been attempted. His method has been verified by Vladimir Ptáček, a biologist at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic.
“Pollen from bumblebees is much higher quality and the bees are fussy,” says Ben Darvill of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at the University of Stirling, UK. The Trust is presenting its work on the reintroduction at the British Ecological Society meeting at the University of Hertfordshire, on Monday.
Jet lag can be avoided by keeping the queens cold to induce hibernation during the journey.
The Zoological Society of London is carrying out a risk assessment of the reintroduction, however, as the bees may carry diseases – perhaps even a British disease that they took with them and has since mutated. …
The planned release site is Dungeness, on the south coast of England, the last recorded site for the bees. Local farmers and landowners have been recreating a flower-rich habitat suitable for the bumblebee.
By Dr David Sheppard, Natural England Invertebrate Ecologist, 21st May 2009:
The first recorded attempt to establish bumblebees in New Zealand was in 1875. Charles Darwin had discovered that only the long-tongued bumblebees were capable of pollinating red clover.
I myself have seen bumblebees on red clover near Christchurch, New Zealand.
Bumblebees to be re-introduced at RSPB Dungeness: here.
Update April 2012: here.
Britain: The government must commission research into the impact of certain pesticides on bees, which have seen numbers declining in recent years, the Co-operative has urged: here.
USA: Killer bees may increase food supplies for native bees: here.
Male Dawson’s bees, one of the world’s largest bee species, are so aggressive that they kill each other en mass in a bid to mate with females: here.
From the BBC:
A species of bumblebee has been spotted in Scotland for the first time in 50 years.
The Southern Cuckoo bumblebee was found near the border with England at St Abbs in Berwickshire.
Inbreeding is seriously bad news for Britain’s bumblebees: here.
October 2010. The five most threatened bumblebees in England have made an unprecedented comeback this year thanks to environmental work by farmers: here.
Franklin’s Bumble Bee, Bombus franklini, is classified as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. Known only from southern Oregon and northern California, between the Coast and Sierra-Cascade Ranges in the USA, Franklin’s Bumble Bee has the most restricted range of any bumble bee in the world: here.
The populations of four species of North American bumblebee have declined, a new study has confirmed. The study also found that fungal infections are more likely to plague these bees than other, more stable bumblebee species: here.