24th April 2023
Get comfy… we’re starting 400 million years ago, in the Himalayas! But don't worry this episode won't take that long! We're 'buzzing' to chat all things bumblebees with the phenomenal Gill Perkins, CEO of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, who is incredibly passionate about saving our bumblebees, and raising awareness of how crucial they are to our environment.
Did you know that there are 24 species of bumblebee in the UK? That a foraging bumblebee is only ever about 40 minutes from starvation? That they can fly up to 6km a day to forage on flowers - this is the equivalent of a person walking around the globe 10 times! It's no wonder our furry friends get exhausted.
But the sobering fact is that without Bees our world would be in real danger. Bumblebees are in trouble; in the past century, two species have already become extinct. If all bumblebees were to disappear, it's safe to say that Earth would certainly bee a very different place...so get ready to bumble because this episode is jam packed full of bee advice, fun facts and pet-related content to help you better understand our winged heroes. This is one episode you will not want to miss.
[Please note: this is an automated transcription, and as such Animal Friends takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription contained within.]
Patricia Gardiner: Welcome to a walk in the park with animal friends, with me, Patricia and Skye. As you can see here, he's just snuffling a treat there. And today we have got Gill from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Welcome, Gill.
Gill: Good morning and thank you so much for inviting me here. I'm very excited to talk to you.
Patricia Gardiner: I'm so excited about this, love talking about bees. And as you can. See or those who can't. See we've actually got knitted bees on our microphones, which is amazing. So thank you for, for bringing those along. So Gill, tell us all about. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust and what you guys do.
Gill: Yeah. Well it it started in 2006. There were two. Really good scientists Professor Dave Goulson, who a lot of people know he's written a number of books, but the best one, I think, is a sting in the tale because it talks about founding the trust. And he had a PhD student called Ben Darvill. And he had a PhD student, Ben Darvill, and the two of. Them did tonnes. Of research on bumblebees and they suddenly realised that they were in steep decline. We've lost two to extinction. We had two on the edge of extinction and six at risk, and we've only got 24 species of bumblebees in this country. OK, so just on that point, yeah.
Patricia Gardiner: I had no clue that we had. 24 species of. Bumble bee and they've got some of. The most cool names. Can you just tell us? Tell the listeners a few.
Gill: OK, so we've got let's have a look. My favourite. The bilberry bumblebee. Yep. And if you. Want it in Latin? That Bombus monticola and some people call it the mountain bumblebee. OK, so that's a beautiful bumblebee. We've got the buff tailed bumblebee, got the white tailed bumblebee common Carter bee so shrill. Cardi bee. Now a bit of an apocryphal story, but they think that the sure could be is called the sure cardby because most of our bees go. But the SURE card a big goes.
Patricia Gardiner: Ohh nice hey below way.
Gill: And I'm just thrilled.
Patricia Gardiner: So it does what it says on the tin.
Gill: Totally love. And then another one of my favourites, the great yellow bumblebee. The big, fluffy yellow ping pong ball of a bumblebee found in the north of Scotland. Yeah. Amazing creatures they are.
Patricia Gardiner: Do you know, what we're very passionate about bees in our household and you know, I've seen bees have been struggling, so I've helped either move them to flowers or if there are no flower. Put some sugar water down to. The and and my daughter has picked up on that. So she's 11, but a couple of years ago she picked up on me rescuing this bumblebee. And at school they found, unfortunately, a dead bumblebee, so she wasn't happy about that. Firstly, cause she couldn't rescue it. But secondly, she then made all of her friends. Have a funeral for this poor little bumblebee. So they went and buried this bumblebee. But she understands the importance of bees. I love bees. But can you tell our listeners why a bees so important to?
Gill: Yes, it's a funny question that because I like to think that all creatures and bees have an intrinsic value of their own. Hmm. They're not here primarily to support the human race, although without. Them we would. We would all be dead. That's you know, that's a truism. So if you think about the. All the food that we eat, 74% of crops that we grow in this country rely on an ecosystem service called pollination. Without pollination, nothing reproduces. Nothing grows. Yeah. So it's not just about the food that we eat, the fruit and vegetables, it's our dairy products. You know, the cows eat grass and we might say, oh, Gill cow, they're wind pollinated grass, but we most pastures have got herbal lays in them and Clover or need to be pollinated. And then you think of all the creatures like birds. And volumes and little door mice, they rely on the fruits, that of pollination in the world, the way our gardens look, all that colour, pollination, the way our countryside looks. Pollination. So they're absolutely vital for our food security, our human food security.
Patricia Gardiner: But also the whole. Right. So it's not just as you said. About humans and. What we need to eat, but the whole ecosystem lies on on these amazing pollinators.
Gill: It it supports it? Yeah. And. And you know, just to add to that, not many people know that we actually import a round about 100,000 boxes of commercially farmed bumblebees into this country every year to support our soft root industry because we don't have enough bumblebees. In this country to do it.
Patricia Gardiner: So on that why? Why do we not have enough bumblebees? What's happening to?
Gill: Them it was after the 2nd. World War we lost 97%. Of our wildflower meadows. Everything went down to food production, which was quite right at that point. We were all starving. You know, there was. There was no food to be had and. Of course, bees need flowers, they. Need the nectar and pollen. From flowers. So that was the start of the decline we. Then had you. Know we're a small island. We have a finite amount of land. And we have a growing population, I'll say something quite difficult. Now we have a cheap food culture and we have an intensive agricultural system and that all of those lead to more declines. We're also now on top of that, overlying everything is climate change. And biodiversity loss. So there's a number of reasons. The main one is habitat loss, which is why our simple message at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is grow more flowers. OK. The more we grow. The better it's gonna be for bumblebees and anybody in their gardens can grow bumblebee friendly flower. So you know, that's us, one of the simple messages that we've got.
Patricia Gardiner: Fabulous. So how do I? Know what are the right plants? To attract and help bumblebee.
Gill: So on our. Website We have a free tool called be kind. OK. And it has. Another be great and it has over 700 of the best bee friendly flowers and it also has super flowers. Marked with a little flower icon? Yep, because some flowers have extremely good pollen and nectar content and quality are particularly good at this time of year. Goat Willow. You know the Willow with their. Golden pollen on their their little furry pot. That's brilliant for bumble bees. That's a good early food.
Patricia Gardiner: . So is that really important? Now, because they're starting to come out and there's not as much food around for them. So yeah, is it the Queens that are coming out first and they need to be sustained? Yeah, they.
Gill: Yeah, yeah. They need to see as soon as they come out of hibernation. They're hungry, so they really need to get fed up to in order to be able to build a nest, lay their eggs, have a colony and grow. So anything we can grow that's flowery at this time of year, spring. Oops, that sort of thing. Pulmonaria. What else have we got going on at the moment? All the primroses coming out, you know, go and be kind and you can sort by month by shade by sun by soil type by petal colour by petal number. So you can sift the whole lot. So you've got something flowering. Throughout the bumblebee flight season.
Patricia Gardiner: I love that cause I even just waking up from, you know, 6 to 8 hours sleep. I'm starving. So how long do you think I'm not for?
Gill: Yeah, exactly. Me, too. Well, it depends, really. It depends on the the weather. Most of our bees will go into hibernation around September, October time where I live down on the South Coast, we have a sort of mini micro climate. Mm-hmm. And we have what's called genetic risk takers. Ohh I know.
Patricia Gardiner: OK. I like the sound of that.
Gill: And these are. Queen bumblebees that will stay out all winter if there's enough food, they won't hibernate. They won't build a colonnade. There won't be enough food. But they won't bother hibernating and I have often seen bumblebees where I live on mahonia with a frost on it feeding. So yeah.
Patricia Gardiner: So they're just flying around, doing the rain thing again. And you know what? I'm not gonna sleep for the winter. Yeah, I'm just gonna chill out. I don't have to look after anyone. It's just me.
Gill: Beautifully described, may I say.
Patricia Gardiner: I love that.
Gill: And there are genetic risk takers.
Patricia Gardiner: OK, I'm. I'm loving the sound of. Those I think. If I'm reincarnated, I might be one of those. So you said that we've got, was it 24 different types of species species in the EU? OK. And what is the difference and and I? I think I wanna bust some myths here around bumble bees and honey bees. And then actually, the role that Wasps play because you know, one weekend I was stung 7 times by Wasps. They're not my favourite, but I'm really hoping that they do have a role to play in the whole pollination. Piece as well they do.
Gill: Well, let's start 400 million years ago.
Patricia Gardiner: Amazing, right? I'm gonna get comfy.
Gill: So the bumblebees evolved in the Himalayas, OK, and they actually evolved from Wasps.
Patricia Gardiner: No way. So they do have a point.
Gill: They do have a. Point and the bumblebees have got a big furry coat. Shall I show you a bumblebee?
Patricia Gardiner: Just on your bag or in your bag. Oh, this is amazing. I love this, isn't it? Obviously this is a super super like is this a buff tail?
Gill: This is a white tail.
Patricia Gardiner: A white tailed bumblebee.
Gill: So you can see it's got a really big thick. Sorry. Yep, because it was used to flying in very cold conditions. And even now our bumblebees will be able to emerge OK.
Patricia Gardiner: OK.
Gill: Earlier than honey bees on a day because they're able they're they're warm blooded, they can warm themselves up. So you've got a sort of head here. You've got a thorax where the wings are, and then you've got this big abdomen where it keeps all its nectar that it and its eggs. And it's absolutely a flying miracle.
Patricia Gardiner: As you say, because some of the ones. That I've seen. You want to hold this absolutely similar ones that I've seen. I look at it and I go, I have no idea. Yeah, how you are actually flying? Yeah. So the size of it and then the size of the wings? Yeah. I mean, they are a miracle of nature, really, aren't they?
Gill: Yeah. And in its chest area and its thorax area, it's got a massive muscles and everybody thinks it's the wings that make that that lovely drone.
Patricia Gardiner: OK.
Gill: Yeah, sound of summer, but it isn't. It's the muscles vibrating. OK. And that's it. Wow. It can disconnect its wings. From its muscles. And it can buzz its muscles to warm itself up on cold days.
Patricia Gardiner: Do you know what you learn? Something new every day.
Gill: If it goes to school yet?
Patricia Gardiner: And yeah, you know, I'm fascinated about these beef facts. I had. No, I would have always have said that it would be the wings making the buzzing.
Gill: and the wings they can beat. Wait. For it 200. Beats a second.
Patricia Gardiner: 200 beats a second settlement and.
Gill: And how is that even possible? I don't know. But the more you find out about bumblebees, the more you really understand what a precious creature they are in their own right.
Patricia Gardiner: Yeah, I mean.
Gill: Yeah, they are a. Miracle of of a species and you know, when I first started learning about them because I trained as an ecologist, it was all about plants. For me as the botany. But plants and bees Co evolve together. Yeah. The one the plant can't manage without the bee. It needs to be pollinated.
Patricia Gardiner: And then hand.
Gill: Yeah, and the bee can't manage without the blocks. It needs a nectar and pollen. So the symmetry between the two is incredible. And of course, you know, having learned about plants and then. Stumbled across the wonder of bumblebees. I'm completely hooked on them.
Patricia Gardiner: No, no, I don't. Do you? Know what? I don't blame you. I'm totally hooked on them as well. So, Himalayas 450,000,000 years long.
Gill: Yeah. And then they gradually came down from the from the Himalayas as more plants arrive, they have to have plants. And so they've evolved as as they are today, and Wasps have remained as as wasp Wasps can be good pollinated. But Wasps are really good. Carnival also clear up. All the mess.
Patricia Gardiner: OK, so natures clean up crew, OK.
Gill: Ohh yeah, they're like eating dead flies and things like that. I think every I don't think we should despise any insect. Really. I think all insects you know are valuable and and Wasps are a little. Bit I would agree. With you, they're a little bit terrifying.
Patricia Gardiner: I think it's because I got stoned seven times in one weekend camping and I don't know whether that was my fault for going. Camping. But I was just. Yeah. Yeah. And and after that, I was. Like Ohh just please tell me it's. All for a reason.
Gill: Yeah, they do play.
Patricia Gardiner: And that they.
Gill: A valuable role in the ecosystem service.
Patricia Gardiner: All these things are well.
Gill: Worth it and and I'll tell you the we talked a little bit. You asked about honey bees. So honey bees, different species and. It it was interesting about three years ago we did, we got some consultants to do some audience insights work for us. Yep. And so they went out and they interviewed the general. Probably all all over and we got so much really good data about what people thought about bees. Hmm, 54% of adults didn't know the difference between honey bees and bumblebees. OK, so that was the first thing. So that's another message I'm going to get across now grow more flowers.
Patricia Gardiner: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Gill: Yeah, and know the difference between honey bees and bumblebees. So bumblebees are wild bees. Hmm. They look after themselves. We tend to talk about honey bees as domesticated or as livestock. Yeah, because they are managed by a beekeeper and so often. And I use this analogy all the time, so often we see save the bees and we see some hexagons. We see some hives or we see honey all over. This place is very much like me saying I'm going to save the birds. I'm going to keep some chickens. Yeah, it's exactly the same. They're not in decline. They're not at risk of extinction. They are livestock. They perform a really good pollination role. I don't dislike honey bees at all. They're valuable creatures. And they do perform a really good pollination role, but they are not need that. We don't need to save them. Yeah, we need to save the the wild bees, which are our bumblebees. Yeah.
Patricia Gardiner: OK. Fascinating. So I think you touched on a point there, which I think is another myth around bees and living in hives. So honey bees live in hives.
Gill: They do indeed. But bumblebees they live underground or. They live in tussocky grass. Or they live in bird boxes. Love it. So and I I really hope that you can get on our social media channels because we launched a really brilliant and. Station only this week. You've got to go and see it, and it's all about bumblebees nesting and it's been fantastically popular.
Patricia Gardiner: OK.
Gill: It's all over Twitter, really great animation which tries to encourage people to to make space for bumblebees, to nest. And as I say, this. Yeah, white pie. But the white tail bumblebee, she tends to live in abandoned rodents nests. So underground. Yeah. And they like to have somewhere that's already preformed for them. Something like a tree bumblebee, as the name predicts. Yeah, it quite likes to live up high. In trees or in bird boxes or under eaves. And then we have something called the common Carter bee. Hmm, and that likes to nest above ground, but in some wild tusky grassy areas, and in the old days, farmers who had sheep. Used to card in the will of the sheep.
Patricia Gardiner: OK.
Gill: And what the? Cardi Bee does is it carders the tussocky grass into a nest. And that's why it's called.
Patricia Gardiner: And that's how I spell the name.
Gill: It's got. That's why it's called the Cardi B.
Patricia Gardiner: Yeah. Ohh. Fascinating. So we're talking about some of them like to nest underground. What should people do if they find a nest at home? Cause obviously we're talking about Wasps stinging earlier. From what I understand. Like, that's absolutely the last resort for a a bumblebee to to sting somebody. So it's if you find is is that true?
Gill: Yes, it's very true. They're quite benign bumblebees. They're within 40 minutes of starvation. And they're on. The wing. Ohh. Wow. So they're really not interested in you? Yeah. They're only interested. In getting to the next flower to feed up. OK. And they're very they're quite friendly. Yeah. And and yes, they do have a sting, but it's. Part of the egg laying mechanism. Them if you learn to identify bees and you can identify a male. Bumble bee, yeah. You can handle those quite safely because they don't have a sting.
Patricia Gardiner: OK, so male bumblebees don't have. A sting? No, they.
Gill: Don't because they don't. They it's, it's. Just. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So.
Patricia Gardiner: For egg laying, essentially. OK, fascinating.
Gill: So if you find a bumblebee, nest it just. You know, just watch it. Yeah. Just go keep a distance. And if you can video the comings and get fascinating to watch.
Patricia Gardiner: I've just got. Pictures you know, kind of laying there, Gill on.
Gill: Absolutely not true. True, it's when.
Patricia Gardiner: The glass just watching. Them coming and going.
Gill: I walked down a I've. Got a little narrow Rd where I walked down to. Get onto the sea wall. And if I walk down there and I see. A bumblebee nest. Yeah, I'm there on the road and looking like this. And people are walking past looking at me like that. It's the same when I rescued. It's when I rescue bumblebees like your daughter.
Patricia Gardiner: What's that, lady Jim. Why?
Gill: And you know I've I've got a bit of cold on the road to lift this poor bumblebee up and people. Walk past it. Earth. Is she doing? Yeah, but but yes, so.
Patricia Gardiner: But Gill, I can quite imagine that. You don't care. What people think I don't no, I. Love it absolutely.
Gill: No, I just want to save our Bumblebees.
Patricia Gardiner: And you know what? I don't blame you. You see what is the typical lifespan of a bumblebee?.
Gill: It's not very long, so they have an annual life cycle. And so when this lovely big Queen girl emerges from hibernation, she'll make a nest. She'll make a big mound of pollen, and then she'll extrude some wax from her abdomen. With her mandibles over here. Yeah, she will fashion a lovely little wax cup about the size of a thimble.
Patricia Gardiner: OK.
Gill: A beautiful little fairy cup. Yeah, and she'll put some nectar in there. And then when? She lays her eggs. She'll have to be with them for four or five days, and she will suck nectar to keep herself going and eat some of the pollen. And then when, like most insect, it's eggs larvae. Proper baby bumblebees, baby bumblebees. And then the baby bumblebees, which are all the girls, they're all the workers. Yeah, they'll go out, collect pollen. Help the queen keep the nest clean, broad. The eggs and just generally do all.
Patricia Gardiner: The work OK so far. We've heard about all the women, bumblebees and all the work that they do give us a picture of a day in the life of a male bumblebee.
Gill: OK. So later on in the season after the Queen has laid all her work. Yes. And they're working away. She lay some uncertainity eggs, OK. And they will be the males. And the males. Will immediately leave the nest, and they'll do two things. They'll get drunk.
Patricia Gardiner: And they'll have sex, OK.
Gill: So that's it. That's all male bumblebee does.
Patricia Gardiner: It's gonna mention any form of stereotype whatsoever.
Gill: So it'll leave. They'll disperse because they don't want to have sex with their sisters. That. Would be really. Yeah, OK, so beans bees are with that as well. Yeah, great. And sometimes in the summer morning, you might find a bee splayed out on the head of a flower. It's probably a male because it doesn't go home it.
Patricia Gardiner: Yeah. Heavy nights, yeah.
Gill: Stays out all night. So they'll disperse. They'll find other nests to hang around in. Yeah. Later on in the season, the Queen. She will lay more eggs and they'll be the new Queens and the new Queens will emerge. The males will mate and then everybody dies. The whole the. Old Queen will die. The workers will die, the males will die. But the new queen, that's just. Animated she'll go into hibernation. OK, so it's really 6. For a queen and the little workers can last between four and six weeks.
Patricia Gardiner: So at that point. It's really you only live once. You crack on and live your life.
Gill: Absolutely. You gotta live your best life as a be. Absolutely. I think the males do. So do you think bees have personalities? Ohh gosh, I hope so. I hope so. Do bees have personalities? I think as. A general species. They're are beautiful, serene, kindly be. That's what I'd like to see. They're they're big and bumbling, you know. Yeah, they're they're just benign. Is the word that I I would use. They're so so important. I don't want to underestimate their importance. But they're just gentle creatures.
Patricia Gardiner: And are they sentient? Can they feel pain?
Gill: Lots of research has been done on and it has the brain the size of a grain of salt - this bee.
Patricia Gardiner: Yeah. OK, a. Grain of salt.
Gill: Yeah, that's the size of its brain.
Patricia Gardiner: Wow. OK, not normally this big. But they're not that that I think they would if I saw this coming at me. In the garden. I think I'd duck inside, yeah.
Gill: And there's been lots of experience where they've trained bees to to, to play football and put balls in hold and get honey and stuff, so. There may well be, I don't think they'll ever be classified as a sentient being because I don't know, to be honest, that on so I don't know whether they feel pain or not, but they are quite clever.
Patricia Gardiner: Umm OK so. Obviously we're animal friends. We have all of our customers have cats, dogs or horses. How can we be more knowledgeable about pets and bees so you know, can pets be allergic to bee stings? I know some humans are.
Gill: I think the answer to that is possibly. Mm-hmm. Yeah. I I think, you know, any sting of any describe of any description, whether it's from a bee or a. Wasp or an? Ant or a spider bite or something like that will cause pain to any. Creature and I think as pet owners, we will recognise that instantly because the the the pet will make it clear that they've been hurt with bees. When you train dogs, you know we all train our our pets and our dogs to be careful and and say no. If they find a bee, it's just training. To say no, don't go. Here and I think that's the best and safest ways. You know, I have a cat that snap snaps at things that fly past. Yeah, never gonna train a cat to and to not catch a bee. Yeah, that's true. Actually, no, it's not. But with things like dogs, I think you can train them just to behave.
Patricia Gardiner: No, you just for servant. It's never going to be the other way around.
Gill: Interesting point, when Dave Golson and Ben Darvall were doing their research on bees, they trained a spaniel to sniff out bumblebee nests.
Patricia Gardiner: Do you know what that's really cool? Cause their noses are amazing. All dogs noses are amazing, but some particularly more than others. And I know. Spaniels are used in quite a lot of. Review absolutely. Firearms catch all of.
Gill: Drug related, all sorts of things. I don't think it was entirely successful, but I think they did have some limited success.
Patricia Gardiner: That kind of stuff.
Gill: With a dog because they needed to find out about nesting in different areas, and the only way you're gonna find out about populations of bumblebees is to find nests. So they had this idea of training this dog up to right.
Patricia Gardiner: Oh, that's amazing. I love that dogs can help him be conservation. Yeah. That marvellous. Yeah. Good link.
Patricia Gardiner: So if you if you found a a nest in your garden. What are some of the practical things that you might be able to do to then help to say I found one in my garden. How do I help keep sky away from it? You know, would it be putting up a little?
Gill: Fence. Yeah, you could do a little wire surround. Hmm. Bees navigate by points in in the area. So geographical points that will navigate them back to their their nest. So if you are gonna put something around their nest like something like chicken wire or something, see through or bit. That prevents the dog getting at it if it's underground. You know, Badgers are terrible predators of bumblebees. OK, we've always suggested putting a paving slab over the top so that the the the badger can't, and that might be something that you would consider doing as well just.
Patricia Gardiner: Yeah, because I just wouldn't want her to put her nose in. That was cause them flying around. I I, I don't think she'd be too fussed by, but just she's very inquisitive, so I just want one of her nose in there.
Gill: Yeah, just if you can just put a circle of of some sort of wire around just to be as a preventative measure for her getting too close. I think that would be the.
Patricia Gardiner: Best thing. Yep, fabulous. One of the other key things I wanted to to talk. To you about. Is what are the? Key things that people can really. Do from home? How? Do we how do we help create the right environment? So I know you were talking about bee friendly flowers and and. We've lost a lot of. Our world flowers. Is it really just about planting or do they need? Space to be able to. Make nests. How? How can people help from home well.
Gill: This is a lovely intro. Thank you so much for this because we have the most amazing campaign going on. OK called be the change. Love this. OK, so again it came out of the data from our audience insights where a lot of people said, look, I'm really busy. I haven't got time to volunteer.
Patricia Gardiner: Yeah, another beef punch.
Gill: You know, I'm more concerned about my mortgage, my children's education, you know, working, we we just don't have time or money. So we constructed this campaign around simple micro actions that people can do that don't cost time and don't cost money. And it be simple as dead hitting your flowers to include, make sure that they flower more often. Talking to your children. Educating when you see a bee, see to your child. Look how wonderful and and learn about bees. It's about thinking about what you can grow in your garden and when to. And more importantly, when to plant it, because there's lots of information about or you should be, you know, things. These things should be flowering, but there's very little information about when do I plant them in order to make them flower. And be the change has got menus, it's got seasonal menus on there which tells you where you should plant things and when they're gonna flower. It talks about seed collecting, completely free opportunity to go down your country lane and I collect seed from I love cow parsley and that lovely fluffy. Light stuff got a shady area in my garden. Collecting seeds is so easy. Seed sharing. Yeah, it doesn't need to. Cost you anything? And there's some I think there's some videos going around at the moment when you buy tomatoes from the supermarket, you can scrape the. Seeds out. You can grow them. The seeds from the tomatoes you buy. From the supermarket, so there's lots of different simple ways. But I recommend people go on our visa change website. Yeah, files. It's on our website and there's a million ideas, but for me. I'm going to use a phrase that one of our colleagues told me when we were talking about our vision and our strategy. Rhodri said I want to put a bumblebee in everybody's heart.
Patricia Gardiner: Oh, that is. That is lovely. Yeah.
Gill: And that's what we want to do. So we really want to teach our children. It's the children, the next generation, that are so important to learn to love bumblebees, and if they learn to love bumblebees, they'll protect them, no.
Patricia Gardiner: Absolutely. So obviously teaching. Our our future generations about how important it is, but. If you had one wish with the government today, what would be the top? Maybe 500? I don't know, Gill. You tell me. What would be your top ask to really help for for bumblebee conservation.
Gill: I think it's it's. It's a. It's a wider ask for me to put the environment at the top of the priority list. To ensure you know there are environment for us humans as we discussed earlier, underpins everything we do. We have got to get both the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis we have got to deal with it now. We've run out of time. And the only way we are going to deal with it and I hesitate to say this because but it is is with more money. Money to educate people as to how to tackle it, money to educate people as to how to create brilliant environments. Money just for people, you know, charities who, who protect species to do their work so that we have a thriving environment. Because without it, we're just not going to.
Patricia Gardiner: Survive. Yeah. So it, you know, we were talking about inspiring the next generation. Do you go out and work with different schools to then help educate? You know the. Future of tomorrow about the importance of.
Gill: We do. We've got a wonderful education officer, Andy. He and he and I work hand in hand and we work with hundreds of thousands of schools all over the place. And another. The tip I think it's April the 18th. We are launching the schools, be accreditation scheme. Amazing. So schools. Yeah, can get their bronze, silver and gold accreditation charts. Brilliant. And it's to get all the schools involved. So how?
Patricia Gardiner: Do they get that? Accreditation. Is it from looking at habitat? Is it alongside education and?
Gill: Yeah, we provide all the resources for them to achieve their their bronze, silver and gold. And they're very simple things. It might be as simple thing as having an assembly about bumblebees. Yeah. And so we've got a list of criteria, a tick list of the things that the school can do. It might be planting sunflowers or having a sunflower competition. Yeah, but something again. We kept it simple, kept it inexpensive. Because schools don't have money and something that the children can enjoy doing, getting their hands dirty outside.
Patricia Gardiner: Yeah, cause at my daughter’s school, they have a gardening area so that they either producing flowers. Or some vegetables and stuff like that. So they can understand how things, yeah. But also then the importance. Of being so I'm sure.
Patricia Gardiner: But they're well on their way to that yeah, exactly.
Gill: Their gold. Gold. I'll I'll mention keep an eye out for our be accreditation scheme. Again, it will be launched. It will be on our website so but very exciting because we do believe that education is the way forward for.
Patricia Gardiner: For saving our bumblebees, absolutely. So gel. I wanna take some back some real geeky bee facts that people don't really know. What are your key ones that are like? Ohh people just don't know this about big cats. Why they're so amazing.
Gill: Bumblebees have smelly feet. Why? Why do they have smelly feet? So when a bumblebee lands on a flower, yeah, it leaves a little ceremony scent on the petal. OK, it takes the pollen and takes the nectar. Yeah, the next bumblebee that comes along. Knows that that flour is empty, and because it could smell the scent on the petal. And so it flies, or it doesn't have to waste energy going landing there flies on to the.
Patricia Gardiner: Next one. OK. That's a great way to communicate, to go look, mate. I've already been here. Yeah, you don't need to worry. Fly on to. The next pub essentially. Yeah. Ohh fascinating.
Gill: Absolutely, we've done the. Greatest of our 24 species? Yep. Lots of different tongue lengths. Some have a tongue that's two millimetres long, yeah. And one as a tongue, 19 millimetres long, 1919 millimetres. Long. Crazy. Why? Why have they got the different tones?
Patricia Gardiner: Millimetres. That's all. I don't know.
Gill: To pollinate different flowers and some of our rarest spies are the ones with the longest tongue. Yeah, because our wild flowers that they rely on, like fox gloves, like, come free. Mm-hmm. Are the ones where they're needed most.
Patricia Gardiner: Because they need to get down. Get down.
Gill: But our short tongue bees have been very cunning, OK, because they have learned how to nectar rob.
Gill: So, if you've got a comfy flower which is a tubular flower. Yeah. And you get your your magnifying glass and you look around the top edge of the flower. You'll see lots of little holes, so the bumblebee has poked its tongue through drunk the nectar without pollinating the flower. That's that's how it is. A very cheeky thing to do.
Patricia Gardiner: It is a cheeky thing to do. Very clever. Obviously this is a white tailed bumblebee. They're not all black and yellow, right?
Gill: No, the code is orange.
Patricia Gardiner: I mean, yeah, OK and the.
Gill: Tree bumblebee is orange, black and with a white tail. And then my favourite, the bilberry bumblebee has a very red quite a lot of red on its abdomen. But does have a black and yellow stripe on it. So yeah, and you've got a short card to be there, which has got a little red bottom and a yellow. It's more grey there. Sure. Card to be. So lots of variations and lots of different. The colours, but mostly the ones that you see the common ones are the.
Patricia Gardiner: Back and yellow ones, which everyone will associate these though and.
Gill: Yeah, absolutely. Like, yeah.
Patricia Gardiner: Are certain species. Of B only in certain parts of the UK.
Gill: Yes, that's true. So if we take the great yellow bumblebee for example, that was widespread across the whole of the UK. Yep, but climate change. And biodiversity lost has driven it further further further north. And now it's. Only found on Case Ness and Sutherland Orkneys the Outer Hebrides. It's clinging on on its geographical range, on the Macca up there, which is a type of habitat. That it thrives on. So yes, that's the scorecard. A beat, our second rarest English bee that has five populations down the South of England, Somerset, Kent, Essex and over in South Wales. So yeah, they have different distributions and their bilberry bumblebee tends to live up on the mall. It's like in the Peak District or in. Whales. So yeah, they have different geographical.
Patricia Gardiner: Areas. So with that amount of geographical coverage, how do you really understand how many bees are in the UK and what they're doing and how they're doing it and how they're thriving or not? What, how, how do you? Manage all of that.
Gill: So the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is a science based evidence LED charity. So we recognised when we first started that in order to answer that question we needed data. Yep, and we had to work out how we were gonna collect that data. So in 2010, we launched B Walk, Now B walk methodology was where you set our one to two kilometre transect. You walk it once a month during the flight season, you record the bees you see and the flowers that it's feeding on. And that's all very well. But first of all you have to train people in order to identify be 24 species. How do they know what the 3021? Yeah. And they think it's only me. So.
Patricia Gardiner: When most people only think there's 1-2. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Gill: We had to train them, so we started off with about 35 volunteers. Mm-hmm. And we started off BID training and got them set up. We now have over 750 B walkers spread across the UK. We have a whole series of webinars and events to keep training people. On bee identification, we are the only organisation in the world that holds the data for bumblebee populations in the UK. OK. And it's every year, our wonderful science manager Richard Comont spends months analysing the data, putting it together in what we call the B walk report, which is again found on our website. And that tells you or answers the question that everybody asks me. How are the bees? Gill and I refer them to the B walk report.
Patricia Gardiner: So are there any? If there's any listings on here from a specific area? Are there any areas that you struggle to? Fill the B walk. Report because you don't have enough people in that area. Yes, Scotland, Scotland. So all of us Scottish listeners please.
Gill: NE. Yeah, OK. Teesside North and N Yorks, Moors, Northumberland, and these are the lesser populated areas, of course, and Wales, North Wales. Within, although we're getting better in North Wales, we've had the skills for bees project there, but those are the areas. But I'd also encourage people who live in the Somerset area or in the South Wales area to learn about specifically about the shore cardby yeah, because if we can get them identifying the shore, cardi B. That gives us. Great to to save this be.
Patricia Gardiner: That's yeah, fantastic. And are there any other ways that people inspired by our conversation today can really help the bumblebee Conservation Trust moving forward?
Gill: What are some of the key things that they can do to help? I I know it's going to sound obvious, but you could join as a member. Mm-hmm. It's £25 a year. We'll start a cup of coffee a month. Yeah, but that unrestricted income, as we call it from membership, allows us to really get to grips with putting more habitat. Down and our conservation officers can go out and work with farmers and land owners to really encourage people to put more flowers down. So during in the trust, just looking at our going on our website and using the tools and learning about it, if you're a teacher that we've got loads of free curriculum resources. Or free. You can just download, because if teachers start using that literature for their children, that's gonna be a big plus for us as well.
Patricia Gardiner: At the website you've got tonnes of resources on there you can join us and. And and I suppose to share the interest in facts that you've heard is that the one? About life of bumblebees.
Gill: It's been absolutely brilliant. I could talk about bees for hours.
Patricia Gardiner: Yeah. Now and honestly, I would just continue to ask a million questions, but I I do realise other people do have lives. So it's been so wonderful to talk to you today, Gill. Thank you so much for for coming in and talking to us and sharing your passion. For bee is. I mean one of our values is. Is being passionate about what you. View and you loose that in in so much.
Gill: What's not to love? No one.
Patricia Gardiner: I'm now. Please tell me you've got, like 20-3 other ones to, to sit alongside this one when you're educating people.
Gill: No, I haven't. I have got, I have got some more of these. They got the, but no, not not very many, but we're hoping to create some more for sale at some point, but they're beautiful, aren't they?
Patricia Gardiner: They are very much so. Thank you so much again to your it's been an absolute pleasure and I'll speak to you soon. OK. Thanks. Thanks.
Gill: Yeah. Thank you, Patricia.