8 Sep 2009

Britain prepares habitat for flight of the bumblebee

10:05 pm on 8 September 2009

Scientists have detailed plans to reintroduce a bumblebee from New Zealand which is extinct in Britain.

The short-haired bumblebee was exported from the United Kingdom to New Zealand on the first refrigerated lamb boats in the late 19th Century.

It was last seen in the UK in 1988, but populations on the other side of the world have survived, the BBC reports.

Project leader Nikki Gammans says the short-haired bumblebee was one of four species introduced to New Zealand about 120 years ago to pollinate red clover.

Researchers will collect queen bees when they come out of hibernation in the South Island in November, captive rear them and send the next generation to Britain to be released next June.

The move is possible after experts discovered that the secret to successful captive breeding of the bee lies in knowing what it likes to eat - fresh pollen every day.

Dr Gammans, of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, says farmers around the release site at Dungeness in Kent are being encouraged to recreate bumblebee habitat.

They are sowing wild flower borders on arable land and rotating stock to allow plants, including clover, to flower on pasture land.