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Study: British bumblebees need more habitats to survive

Study: British bumblebees need more habitats to survive
A bumblebee feeds on a spring flower in the central garden of Athens, Greece, in January 2007. A new report released Monday said British bumblebees need more habitats. File Photo by Orestis Panagiotou/EPA

May 23 (UPI) -- Conservation experts say stable habitats are desperately needed to protect endangered bumblebee populations in Britain, a study published Monday the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology said.

About one-third of Britain's bumblebee species are listed as "conservation concerns" because they are being found in fewer places because of the loss of habitats, according to Richard Comont, science manager for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

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Comont, in a press release, said the insects are endangered directly because of the "loss and degradation of nesting and feeding habitat."

Conservation researchers with the trust, which is part of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the University of Edinburgh, used 10 years of bumblebee abundance data collected by citizen scientists to document the dwindling habitats for the bumblebees.

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"Our results suggest that reversing the loss of semi-natural areas such as wetlands may be the single most generally effective action for bumblebee conservation while improving habitats in urban and arable areas could benefit particular rare species," said lead study author Penelope Whitehorn.

"As one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, it's really important that we better protect our native species and habitats in [Britain]," said Whitehorn, a research fellow at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

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Comont said bumblebees need areas with lots of flowers available from March through September and October.

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He said bees lose this vital resource when habitats are lost entirely because of construction, pesticide use or other actions that eliminate greenery.

"We'd like to find out why different species are associated with different habitats, so we can create and preserve the right conditions for them in the future," Whitehorn said of the trust's continued work. "We also need to better understand how shifting climate and land uses might affect bumblebees and their habitats."

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