The short-haired bumblebee, which nests underground, has most often been recorded as associated with extensive areas of grassland (including sand dunes and coastal shingle) supporting a large number of plants with long corolla flower types, notably those belonging to the plant families Lamiaceae and Fabaceae. It has undergone a drastic reduction in range and abundance as a result of the loss of this habitat in the modern agricultural landscape. Although queens and workers of this species are fairly readily distinguished from its sister species B. distinguendus, the males of the two species are extremely difficult to separate.
Although the short-haired bumblebee was considered to be locally common in east Kent and Suffolk at the beginning of the 20th century, the published national distribution map shows records for only 95 ten km squares. Some 22 of these represent post-1960 records, of which nine are in the Dungeness district of Kent. The bee was last recorded in Britain from Dungeness during an extensive survey of the invertebrates of the area in 1988, and was not found in either 1997 or 1998 despite targeted searches. There are no records from Scotland or Northern Ireland, and no confirmed post-1960 records from Wales. This bee is widespread in Europe but declining over much of its former range.
In Great Britain this species is classified as Nationally Scarce.
Current factors causing loss or decline
Loss of extensive, herb-rich grasslands, especially those containing good stands of plants of the families Lamiaceae and Fabaceae, through agricultural intensification.
Non-native forms of Bombus used for pollination in greenhouses may be a threat, but this requires further investigation.
The last known population was on the Dungeness SSSI.
Action plan objectives and targets
Establish an ex-situ breeding programme to provide material for re-introductions and ecological research, using native stock if available.
Establish and maintain 10 viable populations within the historic range by 2010, by enhancing population sizes at known sites or by re-introducing populations to suitable localities.
Proposed actions with lead agencies
Policy and legislation
Where appropriate, include the requirements of the species when preparing or revising prescriptions for agri-environment schemes. (ACTION: NE, MAFF)
Site safeguard and management
Where possible, ensure that all occupied and nearby potential habitat is appropriately managed by 2008. (ACTION: NE)
Ensure that the habitat requirements of this species are taken into account in relevant development policies, plans and proposals (ACTION: NE, LAs)
Ensure that this species is included in site management documents for the Dungeness, and any other relevant SSSIs. (ACTION: NE)
If sites with viable populations of this species are found, consider notifying them as SSSIs, where this is necessary to secure their long-term protection and appropriate management. (ACTION: NE)
Species management and protection
Establish a captive breeding population, preferably using native stock, with a view to undertaking reintroductions. (ACTION: NE)
If necessary to maintain 10 viable populations, undertake habitat restoration and/or re-introductions at suitable former or potential sites. (ACTION: NE)
Advise landowners and managers of the presence of this species and the importance of beneficial management for its conservation. (ACTION: NE)
Future Research and Monitoring
Undertake surveys to determine the current status of the bee by the year 2005. (ACTION: NE)
Promote ecological research to establish the habitat requirements of this species, the factors limiting breeding success at existing sites, dispersal ability, and appropriate reintroduction methods. (ACTION: NE)
Encourage further research to identify the extent to which the introduction of non-native forms of Bombus used for pollination in greenhouses may be a threat to the species. (ACTION: NE, MAFF)
Establish a regular monitoring programme for the species. (ACTION: NE)
Pass information gathered through survey and monitoring of this species to a central database so that it can be incorporated into national databases. (ACTION: NE)
Communications and Publicity
Use this species to promote appreciation and conservation of threatened species of bee and wasp and their habitats. (ACTION: NE)
Links with other action plans
Originally published in: UK Biodiversity Group Tranche 2 Action Plans - Volume IV: Invertebrates (March 1999, Tranche 2, Vol IV, p221)