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Make a bee-line for the great bilberry bee hunt

This is an archived press release

Monday 21 May 2007

21 May 2007

Make a bee-line for the great bilberry bee hunt

Moorland walkers are being invited to join the great bilberry bee hunt in the Peak District National Park until the end of June.

The Moors for the Future Partnership is asking the public to conduct simple surveys from moorland paths recording sightings of the endangered bilberry bumblebee, and its even rarer cousin, the bilberry mining bee.

The bee hunt is part of Moors for the Future’s work with the University of Leeds, investigating the effects of upland management on biodiversity.

The survey was launched marking the International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22). Bill Kunin, researcher from Leeds University, notes: “ There is growing evidence that bee diversity is declining in UK and Europe”.

A special event on Tuesday May 29, 11am-12.30pm at the Moorland Discovery Centre, Longshaw (between Hathersage and Sheffield, near the Fox House pub), will enable visitors to learn more about bees, meet the research team and go out for a bee hunt. It is suitable for all ages, but children must be accompanied.

The bilberry bumblebee (Bombus monticola) is one of England’s fastest declining bumblebee species, relying very heavily on bilberry flowers at this time of year.

The bilberry mining bee (Andrena lapponica) is an even more specialised solitary bee, using only this single plant species to gather food, and has seldom been recorded in the Peak District. All bees play an important part in natural eco-systems, pollinating wild flowers.

To see pictures and download a survey form, go to www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk or pick one up from National Park visitor centres. Sunny days are best for surveys, but no special equipment is needed. A GPS to record exact locations is helpful but not necessary.

These records will then allow the research team to analyse what environmental and management factors favour the bee populations.

Aletta Bonn, Moors for the Future research manager, said: “We have quite a bit of information about the natural environments of the Peak District National Park. If we can get good records of where the bees are found, we should be able to work out how best to conserve them.”

The work is part of a research programme on ‘Sustainable Management of Upland Environments’, funded by the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme, a joint initiative of the research councils and Defra that brings together economists, hydrologists, ecologists and sociologists to study rural development issues.

This is an archived press release

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