Swedish and UK conservationists are squaring off over a plan to reintroduce an extinct species of bumblebee into England using queen bees from Sweden.
One prominent Swedish naturalist says the idea smacks of British colonialist high-handedness.
“They are no longer the world’s rulers as they were before when they just went around and took stuff,” said Lars Ake-Janzon, a retired biologist from the Natural History Museum in Stockholm, in an article in The Local. “Now they have to show a regard for the country they visit.”
At issue is the short-haired bumblebee, Bombus subterraneous, which was declared extinct in England in 2000. Its loss is part of the much larger problem of rampant development and habitat loss. Over the past half-century, 97% of England’s wildflower meadows have been lost, and with them many of the species that depend on them for survival.
There are two areas in Europe where the short-haired bumblebee can be found – Estonia and Sweden. Researchers from four British conservation organizations, including the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, came up with a plan to import 100 queen bees from the existing populations and release them in Kent.
Estonia was ruled out because its population is also dwindling. Meanwhile, the population in southern Sweden seemed to be healthy, and is not listed as threatened or endangered. A team of researchers left for Sweden Sunday hoping to begin gathering the bees.
“We have been carefully planning this expedition for months with our Swedish colleagues,” said Dr. Nikki Gammons, Project Officer, in an article in Wildlife News. “It’s very exciting now to be heading off to collect the queens which we hope will be the first of a UK colony.”
The reaction has been different among Swedish naturalists, who are concerned about the impact the project will have on their population.
“The short-haired bumblebee is in decline and is increasingly rare,” said Anneli Johansson, environmental director at the County Board in Skane, the area where the collection will take place, in The Local.
Despite the concerns expressed by some, the UK group have all the necessary permits, Johansson said.