New attempt to return bumblebee to Dungeness

Conservationalists have been harvesting pollen collected by bees to feed the imported queen short-haired bumblebees.

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A new attempt is being made to reintroduce an extinct bumblebee to Kent after a bid to bring the species back from New Zealand failed.

Conservationists are going to Sweden to collect up to 100 queens of the bombus subterraneus species.

Queen bees brought back from New Zealand in 2009 died before they came out of quarantine.

The species was last recorded in the UK in 1988 near Dungeness and declared extinct in Britain in 2000.

Project manager Dr Nikki Gammans said the project first tried to collect queen bees from New Zealand because they were direct descendents of the extinct species.

The collected bees did not survive because of genetic weakness in the population and the six-month difference in seasons between the UK and New Zealand.

'Well fed for journey'

Dr Gammans said queen bees collected from Skane in Sweden can be released in the UK two weeks after capture.

She added: "The queen bees will be emerging after the winter in hibernation and will be well fed before beginning the journey."

Before their release across the Romney Marsh at the end of May, the bees will be held in quarantine at Royal Holloway University of London in Surrey.

Over the past three years farmers across Romney Marsh and Dungeness have worked with the project to create flowering field margins suitable for bees.

The scheme is a collaboration between Natural England, the RSPB, Hymettus, which advises on bee conservation, and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

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