Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

Flight of the bumblebee mapped with Geordie landmarks

Bumblebees have an incredible homing instinct that allows them to find their way home from up to eight miles away, according to new research from Newcastle University. Scientists hope the research will help boost the numbers of UK bumblebees, which have been in decline over the last 50 years. Three species of bumblebee have become extinct in the UK in the last 30 years.The research involved tagging bumblebees and dropping them off at famous landmarks in North East, to see if the bees could find their way back home to Newcastle University. Early results show the bees have flown back from the Metro Centre and the Angel of the North (three miles away) and the Tyne Bridge and Manors Metro station (one mile, or 1.5k). However, the record flight was from a garden centre in Heddon on the Wall in the Tyne Valley - eight miles from their nest. The project aims to find out how far the bees can travel to get their food and if certain environments are trickier to navigate than others. This knowledge will ultimately help with conservation strategies that may involve adapting landscapes to create optimum habitats for bees. There are 25 species of British bumblebee but their numbers have been declining in the last 50 years due to dramatic changes in the landscape caused by intense farming. Bees are a crucial part of ecosystems because they pollinate plants in their search for their food, nectar and pollen from flowers. Worldwide, up to 40% of the world’s food production is due to pollination by wild bees.Steph O’Connor from Newcastle University has been working on the project. She said: “The current scientific literature shows that bees normally forage within 5km, and this is probably correct. However, the findings of our research are intriguing, because it shows the bees can navigate their way home from further away than this.” The researchers are asking people to encourage bumblebees into their gardens by planting wild plants, such as honeysuckle, comfrey, knapweed, red clover and flowering currant.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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