23/05/2012
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National campaign calls on gardeners to help the bumblebee

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An ambitious project to help the UK's bumblebees aims to get the nation buzzing. Bumblebee numbers have declined steeply because agricultural changes have destroyed their natural habitats. The project wants the public to help reverse these declines by turning their gardens into bumblebee oases.

The Bees for Everyone campaign, funded through a £340,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and run by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT), aims to raise public awareness of the threats that bumblebees face and inspire gardeners of all ages to get planting, in addition to providing opportunities for people to learn more about these hard-working pollinators. Additionally, the project team will be helping rare bumblebees through active conservation work to safeguard, restore and create habitats for them.

To launch the project, the charity is running a national Bee kind competition to find the UK's most bee-friendly gardens. A custom-built interactive website tool makes it easy for people to get a Bee kind score for their garden, park or windowbox, then makes suggestions for other plants to include. TV presenter Kate Humble is backing the scheme and prizes will be awarded across a range of garden sizes, from windowbox upwards.

Speaking at the launch of the project, Richard Benyon MP, Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, said, "We know that bumblebees together with other pollinators contribute £500 million to our economy — but they are also valued in their own right and this project gives people the opportunity to help bumblebees to thrive. Bees for Everyone is a great initiative to help support these vital pollinators in our towns, cities, and countryside."


Richard Benyon MP launches the campaign at Battersea Arts Centre (Fiona Barclay).

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TV's Kate Humble, a supporter of the scheme who is urging the public to get involved said, "The Bee kind website tool is brilliant — it makes it really easy for people to find out how good their garden is for bees and suggests simple and affordable changes to cater for the bees’ needs. Anyone can become involved and it doesn’t matter where they live. We can all do our bit just by planting a few colourful flowers, and the Bee kind tool will show you how."

Carole Souter, Chief Executive of HLF, said, "Bumblebees are a crucial part of the UK's ecosystem and our natural heritage so it’s alarming to see how numbers have been declining in recent years. The innovative 'Bee kind' competition and online tool will help to protect our bumblebees, encouraging people across the country to learn more about these fascinating insects and how to make gardens and window boxes bee-friendly habitats."

The Bees for Everyone project is also working with landowners, farmers and local authorities to ensure that the UK's rarest bumblebees have the habitat they need in order to survive. By working with both the public and large-scale landowners, BBCT's CEO Dr. Ben Darvill hopes to begin a reversal in the recent fortunes of these important insects. "In the last 70 years two bumblebee species have become extinct and many more have declined rapidly", Ben said, "it's easy to take them for granted, but without their work as pollinators our crops would be less productive and our wildflowers would produce fewer seeds. Important five-a-day fruit and vegetables could become more expensive and our countryside would lose its colour."

Written by: Bumblebee Conservation Trust