A second attempt to reintroduce an extinct bumblebee to the UK is proving successful, conservationists have said.
Short-haired bumblebee workers have been spotted at Dungeness in Kent over the last three years following the introduction of queens from Sweden.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust said it showed the queens had nested and produced young, and were finding enough food to build colonies.
An attempt to introduce queens from New Zealand failed in 2009.
The bees died before they came out of quarantine, apparently because of genetic weakness in the population and the six-month difference in seasons between the UK andshort haired bumble bee New Zealand.
The short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus) declined in numbers over 60 years as its habitat in the UK was lost. It is found in good numbers in Sweden.
The last naturally occurring specimen was found at Dungeness in 1988 and it was declared extinct in 2000.
Three short-haired bumblebee workers have now been spotted at the RSPB’s Dungeness nature reserve on four consecutive days.
“This is a thrilling discovery and shows that conservation for bumblebees really can work,” said project manager Dr Nikki Gammans.”Populations of at least three other rare bumblebees not recorded for over 10 years are now found in locations across the release zone and their abundance is increasing across south Kent and East Sussex.”
Farmers and landowners in Dungeness and across the Marsh are supporting the bumblebee project by managing 2,500 acres of wildflower-rich habitats to provide them with food.