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.