Extinct bumblebee will return to Britain in 2010

| 7th September 2009
A short-haired bumblebee

Short-haired bumblebees will be reintroduced into Kent next Summer

Short-haired bumblebee to be brought back from New Zealand and reintroduced into Kent

A rare species of bumblebee will return to Britain next Summer after a decade-long absence.

Conservationists will travel to New Zealand this Winter to capture and breed as many short-haired bumblebee queens as possible as they emerge from hibernation.

They will be bred in captivity before being kept in hibernation and flown back to Britain.

The short-haired bumblebee was declared extinct in Britain back in 2000 but still survives in New Zealand where it was introduced in the 1890s to pollinate red clover crops.

Dr Ben Darvill, of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust which has been working with Natural England, Hymettus and the RSPB to reintroduce the species, blamed its extinction on habitat loss, particularly wild flower meadows which have been increasingly replaced by fields of agricultural crops.

He said the short-haired bumblebee was a unique species and would improve biodiversity.

'It's long tongue will enable it to visit plants that other more common bees in Britain don't touch.'

If all goes to plan, the bee will be released at Dungeness in Kent in late Spring/early Summer, where volunteers and activists have been recreating flower-rich habitats in preparation for the bees' return.

If successful, it will be the first time a species has been reintroduced to  Britain by bringing back direct descendants of the extinct population.

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