Help Bring Bumblebees Back To UK Gardens Say Experts

Posted Jul 23, 2007 by Michelle Duffy

Green fingered experts in the UK have found that vital bumblebees' nests are more likely to be found in gardens rather than in common woodland, meaning houses with gardens are important for the equally important insect to keep in existence.
In a recent report featured in the Journal of Applied Ecology, scientists have suggested that to keep the vital species alive in Britain, we need to keep hold of our precious gardens.
It is thought that the reason behind their drop in number throughout the UK is because many of us opt out of having a garden and rather live in a space which doesn't require so much time and effort.
Yet the common, yellow and black bumblebee is vital to our environment. So far, three species related to the bee have been registered as extinct in Britain in recent years. The humble bumblebee could be next.
The British Bumblebee Nest Survey gathered information about the insects habitats in 2004. Over 700 volunteers across the country took part in the study which asked them to study a patch in their own gardens as well as common land near to them for 20 minutes and record any sightings of bumblebee nests.
The study was constructed to try to understand why the bumblebee and it's 25 other different species were falling into decline. Juliet Osbourne who is the lead author of the published results, from Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, in the UK, said,
"Bumblebee nests are found underground or on the surface in areas like long grass or compost heaps, and people were basically looking for the traffic of bumblebees moving backwards and forwards from an entrance."
The results showed the throughout the findings of the 700 people, nearly all found that the biggest density of bumblebee nests were found in private gardens rather than in common woodland and hedgerows.
Dr Osbourne continued,
"It shows that gardens are actually providing a very good habitat for our bumblebees, and are actually quite a lot better than some of the habitats in the countryside."
It certainly did not come as a shock to the group when it was realised that gardens were more in favour for safe nesting sites for the bees, she went on,
"The diversity of garden features and gardening styles provide a large variety of potential nesting sites compared to more uniform countryside habitats. Areas with gardens have a high concentration of boundary features, such as hedges, fences and garden buildings, which are suitable for nesting."
So if the numbers are falling rapidly, what could the humble gardener do to keep the bees nesting in their gardens? Dr Osbourne suggested that people could encourage the bee back in their private gardens by growing lots of brightly coloured flowers through from the beginning of Spring to the end of Summer.
The bumblebee plays a vital role in keeping species of plants alive amongst other things - to let them die away, would be like making our gardens become as equally extinct.