Rare bumblebee population discovered in Wales

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Staff from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust found a number of Ruderal bumblebee queens foraging on foxglove  (Bumblebee Conservation Trust)
Staff from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust found a number of Ruderal bumblebee queens foraging on foxglove (Bumblebee Conservation Trust)

A population of a very rare and under-threat bumblebee was discovered in Wales this week.

The Ruderal bumblebee is one of the UK’s largest bumblebee species, and is thought to be largely restricted to the south of England after a considerable decline through the 20th century.

Earlier this week, two staff from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust found a number of newly emerged Ruderal bumblebee queens foraging on foxglove near Brechfa in central Carmarthenshire.

Welsh records suggest none have been recorded in Carmarthenshire since 1973.

The only Welsh sightings in recent decades are two or three scattered records of individual bumblebees in protected coastal locations.

The general presumption amongst bumblebee experts was that the Ruderal bumblebee (B. ruderatus) had largely disappeared from Wales.

Lawrence Harris, Wales project development officer for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (Bumblebee Conservation Trust)
Lawrence Harris, Wales project development officer for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (Bumblebee Conservation Trust)

Lawrence Harris, Wales project development officer for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: “I am absolutely thrilled that we discovered the Ruderal bumblebee, such a rare and threatened species, so close to my home here in Carmarthenshire.

“It was exhilarating to discover not just one, but nine queen bumblebees in a small area where we assumed the species had disappeared.”

Dr Nikki Gammans, a project manager for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: “The ruderal bumblebee is a nationally rare species and is declining across its native European range.

“It is of high conservation importance and to discover a hidden population in Wales is very exciting. With more surveys we may be able to find other populations and aid this species conservation.

“I’ve been out in Wales helping Lawrence with surveys and events, and we decided to do a survey on his local patch before heading home.

“We weren’t formally surveying – we’d really just gone for a walk. However, working for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust we naturally took a close look at any bumblebees flying past.

“After we’d found the first Ruderal bumblebee we then went back and did a more thorough search and turned up eight more specimens!”

The records have been confirmed by experts from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and the Natural History Museum.

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