Short-haired bumblebees (Bombus subterraneus) became exinct in the UK almost 25 years ago, but now scientists are planning to reintroduce them into the countryside. Last weekend, a team of scientists traveled to Sweden to collect around 100 bumblebee queens, with the goal of releasing them in Kent in the south-east of the country. Reports say the species is thriving in the Swedish county of Skåne, where early bee preservation attempts were made in order to conserve areas of wild flowers.

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The team was expected to catch the queen bees in the southern region, refrigerate them (inducing temporary hibernation), and transport them to the UK by ferry. Following a period of quarantine to ensure they are free from diseases and parasites, the bees will then be released later in the spring, to re-colonize meadows and farmlands.

The last time there were official sightings of the bumblebees in the UK was back in 1988. Ecologists attribute the regional extinction of the native species to increased pesticide use and intensive farming, which has resulted in a dramatic loss of natural areas of wildflowers since the second world war.

It’s now widely known that bee populations are in worrying decline around the world, a threat which could bring widespread agricultural losses. By repopulating the short-haired bumblebees, the UK department for environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) hopes to help prevent economic losses from a decline in insect pollination.

Via The Guardian

Images courtesy of Flickr User henk.wallay