Hymettus undertakes research and is the leading source of advice on the conservation of bees, wasps, ants and other invertebrates in the British Isles
Registered in England No. 5761114
Registered Charity No. 1124636



Information sheets



Formica exsecta

Short-haired Bumblebee Project




Queen B. subterraneus - Nikki Gammans

Progress Report 2013

The 2011 Project Report is available for download here

Once widespread across the south of England, the short-haired bumblebee, Bombus subterraneus, was in decline through the second half of the twentieth century. The last English bee was seen in 1988 near to Dungeness, Kent and the species was officially declared extinct in the UK in 2000. The short-haired bumblebee project involves Hymettus working in partnership with Natural England, RSPB and Bumblebee Conservation Trust with the aim of reintroducing Bombus subterraneus back to the UK. The project also aims to engage the public in bumblebee conservation more generally.

A successful reintroduction is dependent on the availability of a large area of suitable habitat with plenty of nesting and hibernating sites as well as a rich supply of flowering plants throughout spring and summer to provide pollen and nectar. By working closely with farmers, conservation groups, small holders and other land owners the project and its advisers has created, advised and assisted in the management of over 550 hectares of flower rich habitat within the release site of Dungeness and Romney Marsh.

The project originally intended to reintroduce the bumblebee from New Zealand where it had been imported to pollinate clover crops over 120 years ago. Problems with captive rearing of queen bees in New Zealand and the discovery of high levels of inbreeding in the population, potentially reducing the fitness of any reintroduced stock, caused the project partners to look to Europe for a source of bees. Sweden was identified as a possible source of stock for reintroduction as it is the only country with a strong population of B. subterraneus within its native range. An initial visit in 2011 allowed the size of the Swedish population to be checked and bees to be screened for disease. Queen bees were collected from Sweden in 2012 and after further disease screening were released at Dungeness. Further batches of queen bees were collected from Sweden and released at Dungeness in 2013 and 2014.

Volunteers monitoring the bumblebees in the project area observed worker bees in 2013 and 2014. This indicated that the introduced queen bees had laid eggs and raised at least their first brood of offspring. The next step towards a successful reintroduction will be achieved when the volunteers observe queen bees early in the season, queens that must have been raised by a successful nest the previous year before (hopefully) mating and then hibernating. Plans are being prepared for another batch of queen bees to be imported from Sweden in 2015.

Worker B. subterraneus - Andy Tibbs


For regular updates on the short-haired bumblebee project visit the BBCT Project Page

RSPB Project page

Natural England Project page

To donate to the project please click: here  and type ‘short-haired bumblebee project’ in the comment box when making your donation:


Farm events - photos by Rob Fowler and Nikki Gammans