Climbing to the Peak with bumblebees!

Bees are just about as important as it gets. Sally Cuckney from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust talks about their work in the Peak District to protect them.

Last year, I was appointed project development manager for a project called Pollinating the Peak, with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. I have to say, I was over the moon, after years working in the public sector, to be back working in conservation and ready to make a difference! I know bees are important, so we are doing every  thing we can to make this project a success!

Pollinating the Peak is a natural heritage project, majority funded by Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), focused on bumblebees including the scarce, but iconic Bilberry Bumblebee (Bombus monticola) and other wild pollinators in the Peak District and Derbyshire area. The project directly delivers actions from the National Pollinator Strategy for England. This is important, as means it has backing from Central Government and is a key document for biodiversity.

The project is finding fun, engaging and innovative ways to inspire and educate the next generation (I don’t think this will be a problem for me!). It has been developed from a real need to maximise the enthusiasm, expertise and knowledge locally and to raise awareness about the importance of bumblebees. That’s why we’re working in partnership with eight other local groups. I love that we can all work together to support this project and engage our next generation. What better way, than to talk about these furry, charismatic insects every day!  

Bilberry bumblebee (Bombus monticola) and Buff Tip Bee on Devils Bit Scabious (C) Northumberland NPA

Over the summer last year we ran consultation events. Our education officer, Ida Griffiths, arrived with microscopes and science equipment (armed to the teeth!) and the kids loved it!  Our community officer, Rhodri Green produced a shopping basket full of fruit and vegetables, baked beans and other food. You can see the perplexed expression on the adults faces when they realise, without bees, that we are only left with . . . weetabix? The children get it; they really are experts already; “if we have no bees, we won’t have any tomato ketchup? . . . That’s terrible”. Already, our message is being understood and we all need to do our bit to protect bumblebees! 

“Have you heard about the Bilberry bumblebee?” I ask people. It is a very distinctive bumblebee with a red and a lemon striped bottom! It is a cold loving species and likes Moorlands, which is why it is pretty local to the Peak District. I have to be careful not to alarm people. However, I do have to make people aware that, mostly due to loss of habitat and climate change it is in decline. It’s serious. The UK has seen several species become extinct on our shores in recent decades. I have to admit, before I started, I didn’t know there were 24 species of bumblebees, over 200 species of solitary bees and just one honey bee! Between you and me, I also learnt that honey bees are domesticated and bumblebees are wild. Even on my first day, I realised there was so much more to this cute fluffy insect.  Bumblebees are one of the best pollinators, simply because they have that big fluffy coat.

There are so many ways you can support this project. We want communities and individuals to get involved and become inspired by the work here at the Trust. We want your children to talk about their exciting science day when the Polli:lab visits their school; and we need your help to plant more bee friendly plants. To find out more about Pollinating the Peak, click here.