Their rapid population decline has been well-documented in recent years but mystery remains about the exact reasons behind it.
Of the 25 species of British bumble bees, three are already extinct and half of the rest are in serious decline. One of the extinct varieties is the short-haired bumble bee, which disappeared in Britain in 2000. At the time, the loss was blamed on the disappearance of wild flowers in Britain’s intensively farmed landscapes.
Why such concern for the humble bumble bee? As well as being a much-loved part of our natural wildlife, the bottom line is that when it comes to the UK’s crop production, the bumble bee is the linchpin of the operation. Insects such as bees, moths and hover-flies pollinate around one-third of the agricultural crops grown worldwide. Together, the UK’s pollinating insects are essential to a significant chunk of the country’s crop production. If they were all to be wiped out, it would cost the UK economy up to £440m a year in lost crop production – which equates to around 13% of the income from farming. Full story...