UK bumblebee push sparks Swedish anger

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson
TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson - [email protected]

A plan by British researchers to reintroduce an extinct bumblebee to the UK by collecting 100 queens from Sweden has prompted an angry reaction from Swedish environmentalists who fear for the species' survival.


"They are no longer the world's rulers as they were before when they just went around and took stuff. Now they have to show a regard for the country they visit," said Lars-Åke Janzon, recently retired biologist from the Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.

The bombus subterraneus, or short-haired bumblebee, was last spotted in the UK in 1998 near Dungeness in Kent and the species was declared extinct in 2000.

But a team of British conservationists is mounting an attempt to reintroduce the humble bee to the UK's wildlife by collecting 100 queen bees from southern Sweden.

The project, conducted in cooperation with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Hymettus, Natural England and the RSPB has gained significant media attention in the UK and has developed a large twitter following.

The Swedish authorities are less amused however, voicing fears over the future of the bee in Sweden.

"The short-haired bumblebee is in decline and is increasingly rare. If they collect 100 queens here there is a high risk that we end up in the same situation as in the UK," said Anneli Johansson, environmental director at the County Administrative Board in Skåne.

However as the short-haired bumblebee is not yet on the list of endangered species in Sweden, there are no legal grounds for the board to stop the UK conservationists.

"The only thing we can do is to try to get in contact with them, to appeal to them and to get them to understand how inappropriate it is to threaten the existence of this species in Skåne," Johansson told the TT news agency.

Lars-Åke Janzon argued however that Skåne should do more than make a friendly appeal to the British, calling for the project to be reviewed in the UK's equivalent of the Research Council.

He furthermore accused the British team of acting unethically.

The short-haired bumblebee population has shrunk considerably in recent years and is now largely extinct in much of central Europe.

A previous British attempt to reintroduce the species with the help of bees from New Zealand in 2009 failed when all the bees dies while in quarantine.


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