A first-of-its kind project, offering hope for one of the UK’s rarest bumblebees, has been launched on the Peak District moors.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust and the Eastern Moors Partnership – a joint initiative between the National Trust and the RSPB – aim to boost populations of the threatened Bilberry bumblebee by planting 1,000 bilberry plants inside specially designed grazing-proof metal cages on Hathersage Moor.
Bilberry is a vital food source for the declining bumblebee. It flowers in the spring and early summer, before heathers and other moorland plants, and is essential for the bees and their larvae as the nests are established.
Sally Cuckney, Pollinating the Peak project manager, for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: “Grazing animals such as sheep and deer find tender young bilberry plants especially tasty, and their constant browsing stunts the plants’ growth. That’s bad news for the Bilberry bumblebee. If grazing is reduced, bilberry does much better.
“This hands-on project is the first attempt to help Bilberry bumblebees and bilberry plants survive and thrive together like this.”
This month, bilberry has been planted across 60 acres of Hathersage Moor, then protected by cages built by Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Eastern Moors volunteers and youth rangers.
The project is supported by the National Lottery. Visit www.bumblebeeconservation.org for details.