About the SA Blog Network

Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world
Extinction Countdown Home

Extinct bees return to Britain — by way of New Zealand

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint

As the world’s bee population continues to decline, a rare species of bumblebee that long-since went extinct in its native Britain may soon return to its native shores, thanks to the return of bees from New Zealand.

Short-haired bumblebees (Bombus subterraneus) were introduced to New Zealand more than a century ago to pollinate crops of red clover. The species was last seen in the UK in 1988, and officially declared extinct in its homeland in 2000, according to the BBC. Even in New Zealand, they only survive at a few sites.

A few repatriated bees are currently resting at London Zoo, which will make sure they do not carry any diseases. If proven healthy, 100 more will be collected in December. The bees will then be released next year into a newly restored site in Dungeness, Kent, which is now full of the wildflowers they once thrived upon.

Britain has lost 98 percent of its wildflower fields in the last 60 years, according to project officer Nikki Gammans of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, one of four conservation groups headlining the effort to restore the bees. Other factors affecting bee loss include the growing use of pesticides, Gammans tells New Zealand’s 3 News.

The effort to restore the bee to England how two purposes, according to Poul Christensen, acting chairman of Natural England, one of the other groups involved. "This international rescue mission has two aims – to restore habitat in England, thereby giving existing bees a boost; and to bring the short-haired bumblebee home where it can be protected," he told the BBC.

Image: Bombus subterraneus, courtesy of The Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Rights & Permissions

Comments 3 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. ejames8124 2:21 pm 06/3/2009

    I would like to point out that this is another potentially bad idea brought to you by people who think that they know better than nature. Let’s make one mistake and then attempt to reverse the bad idea by supplanting it with another bad idea. What safe guards (as if we could think of them all) are going to be in place to ensure that we do not introduce any other insect parasites into the English countryside that in 5-10 years will bring about the end of another bee or insect related species? What insects or animals have taken advantage (possibly to the human populations advantage) of the absence of the Bumblebee? Will the reintroduction be worse or better and who is making this decision? Does the London Zoo really have the authority or knowledge to guarantee success? Every animal and or insect that has been transplanted for good or bad has occurred with numerous unintentional harm to the environment. Will we ever learn?

    Link to this
  2. 2. stanford 2:03 am 06/4/2009

    that it is very wonderful newes I never heard befour . that is maybe a result of environmental protection I think

    Link to this
  3. 3. stanford 2:05 am 06/4/2009

    that is very wanderful news I ever heard befour .
    tha it is maybe a result of envarionmental protection

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Email this Article