49 rare queen bees have been released into the wild in Kent in an effort to help stabilise a population of unusual bees.
The new arrivals are from the species 'Bombus subterraneus' -- the short-haired bumblebee -- which used to live in Britain and now is being re-introduced by biologist Nikki Gammans. Lasr year, she oversaw the release of 51 queen bees into the same area. None of those 51 has been seen again, but Nikki is confident that the 49 newcomers have a better chance of survival.
They look livelier than last year's crop, apparently -- and besides, just because those 51 bees haven't been spotted since, doesn't mean that they aren't out there somehwere.
"Obviously last year wasn't the best year for the bees, it was cold and wet, but the queens that survived are going to be pretty tough and pretty feisty," she said. "They are going to be able to cope with anything in the future."
Her efforts have also led to a major re-structuring of the bees' new habitat in Romney March by Dungeness. The area is now being farmed 'sensitively', with traditional meadows allowed to flourish alongside strips of (our favourite here at CF!) banks of wild flowers. As well as bees, this more friendly approach to farming should help birds, butterflies and rodents to survive in an increasingly hostile and overfarmed landscape.
Britain has 25 species of bumble bee -- two of the rarest, the shrill carder and the ruderal bumblebee -- have already established themselves at Dungeness under the new project. Fingers crossed, the short-haired bumblebee will join them in a new, buzzy and busy paradise!
Watch the re-release here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2013/jun/05/short-haired-bumblebee-britain-video