Bumbles in Danger, Gardens to the Rescue

I couldn't resist this lovely closeup of a bumblebee (soon to be appearing as wallpaper on my computer) by "Trounce" via Wikimedia. It's licensed for limited use via Creative Commons.

GARDENS CAN HELP TO SAVE BUMBLEBEES. That's the news being reported by the BBC, based on a new study, conducted in England where there is grave concern about declines in bumblebee populations. Three species of bumblebee have become extinct in the UK in recent years, and at least 5 more of the UK's 25 species are threatened, according to the Beeb.

The new research comes from a citizen-science project called the British Bumblebee Nest Survey, conducted in summer 2004. More than 700 volunteers each checked an area of their garden and one of six other habitats for 20 minutes, looking for bumblebee nests. They found that their gardens contained an average of 36 bumblebee nests per hectare (2.5 acres).

The gardens included in this study tended to be wildlife-friendly, because the volunteers tended to be wildlife-friendly people. They probably contained more trees, ponds, compost piles, and bird nest boxes than average. So (as the weight-loss ads say) results may not be typical. But the study revealed that wildlife-friendly gardens, at any rate, can be ideal nesting habitat for bumblebees. What's more, the finding held true regardless of garden size.

Among the attractions were spots where sheltered areas adjoin open areas, which seems to be the type of area bumbles prefer for nesting. Examples include hedges, fences, and garden buildings. Also, bumblebees like to nest in spots with soft earth, such as compost heaps and flower beds, as well as in cavities such as those supplied by bird nest boxes. Finally, plants that bloom throughout the season are potentially an excellent source of nectar and pollen for bumbles, especially if the gardener favors "old fashioned" or "cottage style" plants.

Juliet Osbourne, lead author of this report, works for Rothamsted Research in Hertforshire, England, a 160-year-old center for research on sustainable land management. A .pdf with a more detailed report on the study is available online. For more information about bumblebee conservation in Britain, visit The Bumblebee Conservation Trust.


jodi said...

I just had a mini fit, because someone somewhere was writing about the 'ten most hated weeds, and included clovers. CLOVERS! Rationale: "What it does is actually crowd out your grass and it attracts bees. A granular weed killer is best to get rid of clover."
I was sitting out front with Tigger this morning, watching the bees exult in the clover in our lawn. I was exulting too--clover stays green, chokes out other plants that I don't care for (buttercups and, actually GRASS!) and makes those bees happy happy happy. But some people just don't get it, do they?

jodi said...

Because you write with such an intent for influencing positive global change--one pollinator at a time--congratulations, Wild Flora--you're a winner of a blogging award, which you can read for yourself at http://tinyurl.com/2foh9n. (a shortened URL for bloomingwriter's most recent post.)

Wild Flora said...

This writer does seem to be a candidate for some sort of "Most Clueless" award. Shall we start one? At any rate, yes, if you want a lawn, clover is a great way to go. The white variety stays fairly low, so it might not even be necessary to mow. AND clover is nitrogen fixing, so it doesn't need to be fertilized. I don't allow clover in my native garden because it's not native and it does tend to choke out other plants, but I've been thinking of seeding the paths in my vegetable garden with clover. I figure it would be soft to walk on, and anything that adds nitrogen and attracts bees is a great asset to vegetables.

Wild Flora said...

Dearest Jodi,
Thank you so much for nominating me for the blogging award. I am very honored. I plan to post about this as soon as I can decide on my own nominees.