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Hunt is on in Caithness and Sutherland for rare bumblebees

By Georgia Clyne

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Caithness and Sutherland are among parts of the Highlands and Islands being targeted in a hunt to save one of the UK's rarest bumblebees.

The great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) is near extinction after declining since the 1960s. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust hopes to track them down across areas of northern Scotland including Caithness, Sutherland, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

The trust is asking people living in or visiting these areas to look out for the bees and report their location between June and September to allow experts to determine whether they have disappeared or are still clinging on. Photographs will help with identification.

Great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus). Picture: Izzy Bunting
Great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus). Picture: Izzy Bunting

Due to the remoteness of some locations and great yellow bumblebees being difficult to track, it is unclear exactly where it still survives.

“We need to know more about where the great yellow bumblebee is holding on, so we can take action to protect it before it’s too late," said Katy Malone, Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Scotland conservation officer. "Anyone can get involved with this citizen science initiative to save a species.

“Because this iconic insect’s last havens are in some of the country’s most far-flung corners, we don’t have enough volunteers to find and record its whereabouts. So we’re asking people holidaying in the north Highlands and Islands this year – as well as those living in these beautiful places – to help."

From this Saturday, the Great Big Great Yellow Bumblebee Hunt features 28 grid references which have not recently been checked but where the species was known to live. These will be displayed on bumblebeeconservation.org alongside details on how to identify great yellows and other bumblebees, how to record a sighting, and visitor information.

The great yellow is large with golden-yellow hairs with a black band across the thorax between the wing bases and can be found in grassland areas rich with flowers – especially when it is warm and sunny with little wind.

For more information or to get involved, contact Katy Malone at katy.malone@bumblebeeconservation.org

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