Changing environment ‘packs a powerful sting for England’s bees’

A new report from WWF and Bugslife suggests many species are at risk of extinction, with some having already vanished from certain areas

Bees

In parts of England, many species of bee are severely threatened, with some having already gone regionally extinct.

That’s the gloomy conclusion reached in a new report from WWF and Bugslife, which studies the historically bee-rich area of Eastern England and how a variety of factors, including climate change, are killing off the much-needed pollinators.

The analysis of 228 species shows global warming, along with habitat loss, pollution and disease, are threatening the insects – 17 types can no longer be found in the biodiverse region, including the Great Yellow Bumblebee, the Potter Flower Bee and the Cliff Mason Bee.

A further 25 species are classed as ‘threatened’ and another 31 as being of ‘conservation concern’.

The report suggests bee’s pollinating services are worth £690 million a year to the UK economy and claims they are “essential” to maintaining functioning ecosystems – almost 90% of wild plants and 75% of leading global crops depend on animal pollination.

It notes bees live in environments such as marshes, shingle, sand dunes, soft cliffs, heathlands, wetlands and chalk grasslands, as well as brownfield sites like disused quarries.

It suggests the suitability of these areas are threatened by hotter weather, conversion to arable crops and grazing, the increased use of chemicals and the loss of nesting opportunities.

The study calls for management plans to be implemented to protect these habitats and urges Local Authorities to help restore opportunities for pollinators and carefully monitor bee populations.

It also says an ambitious Westminster Environment Act is needed to develop a nature recovery network for pollinators, with a “full set of thematic and time-bound objectives.”

A Defra spokesperson 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 and our Biodiversity and National Pollinator strategies have helped to create over 130,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat.

“Furthermore the Bees Needs campaign brings together conservation groups, farmers, beekeepers to promote good practical advice so we can all do more to provide suitable habitats for bees and other insects.”

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