Many bee species extinct or under threat in east of England, report says

A red tailed bumblebee on Phacelia at Dingley Dell pig farm near Woodbridge Picture: MARK HAYWARD

A red tailed bumblebee on Phacelia at Dingley Dell pig farm near Woodbridge Picture: MARK HAYWARD - Credit: Dingley Dell Pork

Many species of bees are on the brink of extinction with some species already lost, a major new report has found.

Honey bee Picture: Bob Gutowski

Honey bee Picture: Bob Gutowski - Credit: Bob Gutowski

Climate change, habitat loss, pollution and disease are threatening the pollinators, which were studied at research centres in the east of England including East Anglia.

The report, published by WWF and Buglife, analysed data recorded for 228 species of bees. It found that 17 species were regionally extinct - including the Great Yellow Bumblebee, the Potter Flower Bee and the Cliff Mason Bee - with 25 types threatened and another 31 of conservation concern.

READ MORE: What are the main threats facing East Anglia's environment?

Important for agriculture

Great yellow bumblebee Picture: Flak/Buglife

Great yellow bumblebee Picture: Flak/Buglife - Credit: Archant

An important region for agriculture, the research centres were in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire - all home to nationally and internationally significant pollinating populations.

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The report recommends a number of conservation actions to help stabilise populations of bees and reverse declines. These include ensuring that coastal management plans protect coastal habitats and promote the management of sea walls; safeguarding wildlife-rich brownfield sites and promoting beneficial management; and identifying opportunities to connect disjointed habitat fragments.


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Chief executive at WWF, Tanya Steele, said: "The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and the fact that our precious pollinators are in peril is a sad illustration of the dramatic decline in wildlife we're seeing all around us.

"We desperately need targeted action if we're going to bring under-pressure wildlife back from the brink.

Potter flower bee Picture: Flak/Buglife

Potter flower bee Picture: Flak/Buglife - Credit: Archant

The report also suggests local authorities can work with local communities in urban areas to restore and create new habitats for bees.

A Defra spokesman said: "We are working hard to support our bees and other pollinators - as these species are essential for pollinating crops and in turn human survival. Through our 25 Year Environment Plan, we have already committed to developing a Nature Recovery Network to protect and restore wildlife."

This latest report comes in the wake of a UN-backed study which revealed an alarming loss of biodiversity across the world.

Public education

North Essex beekeeper Stacy Cronly-Dillon believes educating the general public about the importance of bees is a crucial element in helping the wild bee population recover.

Stacy Cronly-Dillon

Stacy Cronly-Dillon - Credit: Archant

"There is still a lack of awareness about bees," said Ms Cronly-Dillon, who looks after more than a million honey bees at her farm called Sunnyfields near Halstead.

"I recently saw people spraying bees with water because they thought they were wasps - not all bee species are fluffy like bumblebees," she said.

"People also need to stop using pesticides in their garden or concreting it over - they should leave wild patches where bees and other pollinators can feed."

Leaving roadside verges to grow rather than treating them with weed killers or cutting them can also help bees.

"At the moment there are some wonderful wild flowers on our verges, but I know that soon they will be cut down," she added

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