CORNWALL and the Isles of Scilly have lost eight species of bees - almost half the number of threatened species in the county - according to a new report.
Buglife – the invertebrate conservation trust – has released the findings of its South West Bees project which studied the numbers of 23 threatened bee species which have been recorded in the region over the last 50 years.
In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly 19 of the target bee species covered by the study have been recorded in the past.
However the new study found that just 11 of those species now remain – a reduction of 42%.
While it has been known on a national level that some bee species have reduced until this latest report it was unclear what the impact has been on a more local scale.
Buglife says that the large garden bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus) can still be found in Gloucestershire and Somerset but over the last 50 years has completely disappeared in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.
The report highlights areas in the south west where bees are particularly under threat including, in Cornwall, Bodmin Moor, the North Cornwall coast and the Lizard Peninsular.
Andrew Whitehouse, south west manager at Buglife said: “The south west remains a stronghold for some of the UK’s most threatened bee species. But, over the past 50 years we have seen the local extinction of many of the region’s special bees. Some are precariously holding on, such as the Six-banded nomad bee (Nomada sexfasciata) which has all but disappeared from the UK, except for a last remaining site in South Devon.”
Buglife says that a number of factors have led to the decline in bee numbers including a loss of wildflower-rich natural and semi-natural habitats through the intensification of farming, increased use of pesticides, the loss of bee habitats to development, unpredictable and extreme weather resulting from climate change.
The charity says that as a result half of the UK’s 27 bumblebee species are in decline, while two-thirds of moths and over 70% of butterflies are in long-term decline.
Mr Whitehouse said: “We need to take urgent action to reverse the declines in our bees. By making space for wildlife in our countryside and restoring the wildflower-rich habitats that bees rely upon we can offer hope for our region’s bees. However, Buglife cannot do this alone, and we call upon others to work with us to get the South West buzzing.”
For more information go to www.buglife.org.uk or follow @buzz_dont_tweet on Twitter.