This summer, volunteers will begin monitoring bumblebees on Hathersage Moor through the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's national BeeWalk recording scheme – a citizen science survey that provides early warning of bee declines. The volunteers will identify and count bumblebees they see while walking the same fixed route each month between March and October. Eastern Moors volunteers will continue the monitoring in future years.
Bilberry bumblebees have suffered a dramatic decline in recent years. They were once found widely across north and west Britain, but the Peak District is now one of their last strongholds. Even here, this cold-loving upland species is expected to decline further because of climate change.
Also known as the Blaeberry or Mountain bumblebee, the rare bee is found almost exclusively on bilberry-rich moorlands. It has helped keep the bilberry plant alive for centuries through pollination.
The Eastern Moors Partnership, which manages Hathersage Moor on behalf of Sheffield City Council, has now identified the Bilberry bumblebee as a key species indicator – a species that is rapidly affected by environmental changes and so can give early warnings that a habitat is suffering.
Pollinating the Peak is also creating flower-rich habitats, monitoring bumblebees and raising awareness about them across the Peak and Derbyshire. It is run with partners Chatsworth, Chesterfield Borough Council, Derbyshire County Council, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Little Green Space, Moors for the Future Partnership, National Trust, and Peak District National Park. See www.bumblebeeconservation.org.