'Extinct' Bee Returns To England

By Amir Khan on May 29, 2012 1:46 PM EDT

Short-Haired Bumblebee
A bee once thought to be extinct in England is making a comeback, thanks to conservationists. (Photo: Creative Commons)

The short-haired bumblebee was once widespread in southern England but disappeared in 1988. Now, the 'extinct' bee is making its return to England after over 25 years, thanks to a healthy hive found in Sweden.

 "Normally, extinction means a species is gone forever," Nikki Gammans, from the Short-haired Bumblebee Project, told BBC News. "But it is magnificent that we can bring back this bee species and give it a second chance here in the UK."

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The bees were declared extinct in England 12 years ago after their habitat was destroyed, but they continued thrive elsewhere. Three years ago, conservationists launched a program to reestablish a stock of these bees in England, and on Monday, they released 50 queens into a nature reserve in Kent, England where they can feed on red clover.

"We hope, we believe, this is the absolutely perfect spot for them," Gammans told the Guardian.  "It has everything they like. There is no reason why they shouldn't thrive - they're pretty tough girls."

Gammans said she not only hopes that the bees thrive, but that they will expand also. She said England's natural plant life should help accomplish that.

"There are corridors of wild flowers all over the country so we really hope the bees will be able to spread out and thrive in the English countryside again," she told Fox News.

Conservationists and volunteers captured over 100 queen bees and held them in quarantine while they were checked for parasites. The bees that cleared, 50 total, were released in the nature preserve. The conservationists also plan to release more bees into area farms to help establish the bee population.

"My farmers are brilliant," Gammans told the Guardian. "In some cases they haven't formally joined agri-stewardship schemes, but they're just doing it. It's a return to a more traditional way, the way they remember farming was when they were children, and they've really gone for it."

Gammas said she hopes this process could extend to other species, and that animals who are extinct in certain areas could one day be repopulated.

"This is a flagship project, a scientific first, but also a symbol that it isn't all hopeless: we don't have to stand by helplessly watching species and habitat being lost."

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