Bumblebee Conservation Trust Lifeline


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Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Alison Steadman presents an appeal on behalf of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, an organisation founded in response to the plight of the bumblebee.


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Even when I was a young girl growing up in Liverpool,

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I knew that there was one tiny creature

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that my dad depended on to grow all his lovely flowers,

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his tomatoes and his berries.

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The humble bumblebee.

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Bumblebees are fat and fuzzy.

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Their smaller slimline cousins, the honeybees, also do some pollinating.

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But bumblebees do far more to help our plants reproduce.

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Britain's 25 native bumblebee species

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have evolved to pollinate a huge variety of different flowers.

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Some have tongues that extend up to two centimetres to get inside our

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longest flowers.

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It's thanks to bumblebees that we have one in every three mouthfuls

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of our food, and they're the only insect that can pollinate a tomato.

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But since World War II, we've lost 98% of our wild flower meadows,

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the bumblebee's preferred habitat.

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And it's been disastrous for the bees.

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The bumblebee population has crashed.

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And it makes me really sad to see fields without a single wild flower

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in sight. No food for the bumblebees.

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So, I was delighted when a charity was set up to focus exclusively

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on the plight of the bumblebee.

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It was called the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

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And I joined immediately.

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The trust is working to create 10,000 hectares of new habitat for

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bumblebees. This will help provide food for hungry bees and prevent

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further decline.

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There's lots Britain's gardeners can do to give a small but ideal home or

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snack stop for many of our bumblebee species.

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In Pembrokeshire, Bumblebee Conservation Trust volunteer Claire

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is planting up her family's smallholding

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with bee-friendly flowers.

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You could do this, too,

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even if you've only got space for one plant pot.

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This is a viper's bugloss, which grows wild in Britain.

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Really, really big favourite of bumblebees.

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They love it.

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I've definitely seen lots more bumblebees and they flock to

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this patch on a sunny day.

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And I can actually sit and drink a cup of tea

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and just watch them sort of lumbering over the flowers

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and collecting their pollen and nectar.

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Bumblebee! Bumblebee!

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This is actually bombus pratorum.

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An early bumblebee worker.

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As soon as we put the plant in the ground, she arrived,

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and it just shows, you know, what I said.

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If you look into what are the right plants to go in there,

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the bees will come.

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Claire's also turning a larger area of rough grassland

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into a wild flower meadow.

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And she has some interesting helpers.

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Creating a meadow can be quite a slow process,

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because all the grasses really outcompete the wild flowers.

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But chickens are actually really good at removing grass, so,

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our little sort of meadow makers.

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Little live-in tractors, really.

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This is where the chickens have been for the last month,

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and they've done an absolutely brilliant job

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of clearing all that thick green grass. And now, all we need to do

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is plant some wild flower seeds,

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which have been sourced locally, and, hopefully,

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improve it for bees a bit more next year.

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But if we're going to find 10,000 hectares of habitat,

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then landowners and farmers need to do their bit for the bees, too.

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So, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust

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is also working on large-scale projects.

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In consultation with the trust's specialist,

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Thames Water have made space for bee-friendly areas

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at several of their water-processing plants, like this one in London.

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Bumblebees don't live in hives like honeybees.

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But instead, these use mouse nests and burrows and tussocky grass,

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so the ground needs to be kept slightly rough and not neatly mown.

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Letting a little bit of wilderness creep into an otherwise highly

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organised setting like this

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is a wonderful way of giving bumblebees a home.

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The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is also working with farmers,

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advising them to leave a verge of one metre around each field to allow

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wild flowers to flourish.

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It's also important for the trust to measure its progress by monitoring

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bumblebee numbers.

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The charity runs a fabulous initiative,

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tracking and identifying Britain's bumblebees.

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It's called the bee walk.

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And I've done one myself.

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If you want to volunteer to do bee walks,

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the Bumblebee Conservation Trust will train you up.

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Going to start with the basic principles of identification

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and what bits to look at...

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500 volunteers have been through the training in the last

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three years.

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Bee walk veteran Alan did his training several years ago.

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He now volunteers for the trust and gives talks in schools.

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-A bee walk.

-Yes.

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What is a bee walk?

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And what does it involve?

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Well, a bee walk is the really, in one way,

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the really scientific part of what a volunteer can do in the trust

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because it's about trying to find out the actual number,

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the population of the different

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species of bumblebee.

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So, the bee walker chooses a piece of land across the country,

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the same track or field that you walk every single time,

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from March to October, once a month.

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And you record every bee you see,

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what species it is and what flower it's feeding on

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and it's just a joy being out there in the country.

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So, tell me, why is it so important to track bumblebees?

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It's important because we can get the numbers right,

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but, also, we want to track them because, of course,

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they are in very, very serious decline because of habitat loss.

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Bumblebees, although they're robust creatures with fur coats on and

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everything else, they're still very vulnerable.

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I mean, when a bumblebee has filled its tummy with food,

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it can fly for 40 minutes and then it dies.

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So, it's got to find some more food

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before that 40 minutes has gone past.

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-They live at the edge.

-Save the bumblebee.

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Save the bumblebee, absolutely.

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You could help save the bumblebee, too, by volunteering,

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like these trainee bee walkers.

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Instructor Richard has brought them into the Welsh hills to put what

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they've learned in the classroom into practice.

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So, this is either the southern cuckoo,

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or the Gypsy cuckoo, bombus bohemicus.

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Bee champion Claire has also come along

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to help train the new volunteers.

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And her thorax is quite orange, isn't it?

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-It's quite rusty.

-Yeah, yeah.

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Met some lovely people and learned lots of stuff

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and had a nice day out.

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Well, I'm going to set up my own bee walk, so,

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I was just having a think about where exactly I'm going to put it.

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And, hopefully, get my husband out on them, as well,

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so he can learn a bit about the bumblebees, too.

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Volunteering for Bumblebee Conservation Trust is, obviously,

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first and foremost, brilliant for the bees.

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You are actively helping the conservation

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of our native bumblebees and,

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really, that, in turn, is helping everybody, because without them,

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it would be a much poorer place.

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So, yeah, it's brilliant for us and it's brilliant for the bees.

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So, what are you waiting for?

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Now is the time to help the Bumblebee Conservation Trust

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save our bees.

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Our diet and our landscape would be in a sorry state without them.

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Your donation will help toward the cost of training a bee walker in

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bumblebee identification,

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or teaching landowners and farmers how to make their land

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bumblebee friendly.

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Please, do what you can today for the brilliant bumblebee

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and save the sound of summer.

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You can donate, or volunteer, or both.

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To donate, please go to the website bbc.co.uk/lifeline.

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To give by phone, call 0800 011 011.

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Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

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You can also donate £10 by texting GIVE to 70121.

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Texts cost £10 plus your standard network message charge and the whole

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£10 goes to Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

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Full terms and conditions can be found at bbc.co.uk/lifeline.

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Or if you'd like to post a donation,

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please make your cheque payable to Bumblebee Conservation Trust

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and send it to Freepost BBC Lifeline appeal,

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writing Bumblebee Conservation Trust on the back of the envelope.

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And if you want the charity to claim gift aid on your donation,

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please include an e-mail or postal address,

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so they can send you a gift aid form.

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Thank you.

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Alison Steadman presents an appeal on behalf of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Britain's bumblebee populations have crashed as their natural habitats, like wildflower meadows and unmown verges, have been lost from the countryside. Bumblebees are important for biodiversity and are relied upon to pollinate many flowers, fruit and veg, so the charity is working to get their numbers back up.

Volunteers are key to the Trust's innovative Bee Walk project, in which members of the public learn how to identify bees so they can monitor their numbers. Alison, who has done a Bee Walk herself, also finds out how the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is helping create 10,000 hectares of habitat to enable Britain's 24 species of bumblebees to thrive. From Pembrokeshire smallholder Clare, who has replaced a patch of grassland with a bumblebee-friendly wildflower meadow, to large-scale landowners creating wild bumblebee zones on their property, there's something everyone can do to help the plight of the bumblebee.