Rare Bumblebee Species Rediscovered in Scotland after 50 Years


Bombus vestalis, better known as the Southern Cuckoo bumblebee. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
It's been absent from the hives of Scotland for 50 years but, it seems, the Southern Cuckoo bumblebee has returned. Still common in England, the curious bee—a member of the subgenus Psithyrus—was discovered just over the border in St Abbs.Cuckoo bumblebees have long been thought to be their own genus. Recently, however, they have been defined as a peculiar subgenus, characterized by their lack of socialization and inability to collect pollen. Cuckoo bees, the Southern Cuckoo—or Bombus vestalis—included, invade the colonies of other bees. Once a cuckoo queen has infiltrated a new colony, she kills that resident queen and "enslaves" the workers to feed her and her young.


Buff-tailed bumblebees, like this one, are the most populous in Europe. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Bob Dawson, Conservation Officer for Scotland for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, commented that this was an exciting discovery. He explained:

It's hugely exciting to discover a new species for Scotland — I'm thrilled.

In spite of the good news, conservations are still concerned with the overall status of bees in the United Kingdom. Ben Darvill, director of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, pointed out that:

At a time when bumblebees up and down the UK are struggling due to a lack of flower-rich habitat, it is heartening to see that at least one species is expanding its range...sadly many other species are threatened with national extinction, with Scotland's Great Yellow Bumblebee Bombus distinguendus in particular trouble. We very much hope it's not a case of 'One in, one out.'

It is still too early, researchers said, to determine whether the bees reemergence is the result of climate change but, they added, it is likely.

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Cultivating a garden of wildflowers, the Conservation Trust said, is the best way to help the strained population of bees in the UK.

Read more about bees:
Beware: Bees Never Forget a Face
Africanized Bees Not Yet Killing U.S. Honey Production
The Human Bee Pollinator: People in a Beeless World?
The Latest Buzz On Disappearing Honey Bees: Some Improvement

Tags: Animals | Conservation | Insects

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