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Bumblebee search launched

A Great Yellow Bumblebee spotted in Orkney by Izzy Bunting.

Folk in Orkney are being asked to keep an eye out for a rare species of bumblebee, this summer.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust are asking people to hunt for the Great Yellow Bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) in 28 specific grid references throughout North and Northwest Scotland in a bid to pull the insect back from the brink of extinction.

The Great Yellow bumblebee was found across the UK until the 1960s, but after suffering a massive decline is now only found in a few places in Scotland’s remote northwest, north coast and some of the islands.

Because some of these areas are so remote and relatively uninhabited, the species is difficult to monitor – leaving experts uncertain about exactly where it still survives. The Great Yellow is a large bumblebee entirely covered with golden-yellow hairs – apart from a black band across the thorax between the wing bases. Good places to look are areas of flower-rich grassland, particularly those with clover, thistles, vetches and knapweed, which the Great Yellow loves – ideally when it is sunny and warm, and not too windy.

“We need to know more about where the Great Yellow bumblebee is holding on, so we can take action to protect it before it’s too late,” said Katy Malone, Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Scotland conservation officer.

“Anyone can get involved with this citizen science initiative to save a species.

“Because this iconic insect’s last havens are in some of the country’s most far-flung corners, we don’t have enough volunteers to find and record its whereabouts. So we’re asking people holidaying in the northwest Highlands and Islands this year – as well as those living in these beautiful places – to help.”

The Trust’s Great Big Great Yellow Bumblebee Hunt begins today, Saturday, June 8. It features 28 grid squares where the Great Yellow used to live, but which have not been checked in recent years. During the hunt, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust will highlight 13 of the 28 grid locations as a particularly important “square of the week” on its website.

Anyone able to visit these sites can help discover if this rare bumblebee has now vanished or is still hanging on at these spots, by recording all the bumblebees they find, whether Great Yellows or not.

A map with a full list of the grid squares is available on the Trust’s website bumblebeeconservation.org, with details of how to record sightings, tips to identify Great Yellows and other bumblebee species, and advice on visiting remote locations. The Trust is asking people to record what they find, and if they think they have found a Great Yellow bumblebee, to take photographs to help experts confirm identification.

To find out more or to get involved, you can contact Katy Malone at katy.malone@bumblebeeconservation.org.

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