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Tiree's bumblebees June 08 - 28/06/2008
The flower rich machair of Tiree supports some of the rarest bumblebees in the LTK. Together with neighbouring Coll, it is the only place where it is possible to see all three of the LJK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species found in Scotland. These three bumblebees can be found on the machair, while others are more associated with moorland (the appropriately named Heath Bumblebee) and gardens (the Connnon Carder Bee and Garden Bumblebee).
The unique position of Tiree and Coll is due to the unusual situation of the islands holding the Red shanked Carder Bee, found nowhere else in Scotland. The islands also are very important for the Great Yellow Bumblebee, formerly widespread in the UK and now restricted to certain parts of north and west Scotland. This bumblebee is not common on Tiree but it isunmistakeable. It is one of 32 priority species of animal, plant and fungus to be listed on Scotland's Species Action Framework. From late June to August is the best time to see this species. The third member of the trio is the Moss Carder Bee, which on the mainland is a rather uniform gingery colour, and virtually indistinguishable from its much conunoner cousin, the Common Carder Bee. However, on Tiree and Coll, and a number of other islands, it is transformed to a stunningly patterned bumblebee: foxy chestnut on the thorax (the middle section of a bumblebee, to which the legs and wings are attached) and a lemon yellow abdomen (rear end), both of which contrast with jet black underneath.
As well as these now rare and vulnerable bumblebees, many other bumblebees have also declined and are becoming scarce. In March 2006, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust was formed to raise awareness of the variety of bumblebees, their impor tance as, pollinators of crops and wildflowers, and what can be done to help bumblebees. The Trust is a LK wide membership based registered charity, working from an office within Stirling University. I recently started work with the Trust and am delighted to be able to visit Coll and Tiree at the end of June, during National Insect Week. On Tiree, there will be a talk on bumblebees at the Tiree Rural Centre at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday 28di June, and on Sunday 29th June, there will be a 'Bumblebee Safari' in the afternoon to look for some of the special bumblebees of Tiree, as well as seeing some of the "Big 6" common species (although curiously these can be quite scarce here!). I look forward to meeting you then.
Bob Dawson, Scottish Conservation officer, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, www.bumblebeeconservationtrust.co.uk

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