Our way of life has consequences to which no remedies are in sight – and maybe none is possible. For instance, in the 1930s the weight of spiders in Great Britain was greater than the weight of humans. There are several reasons why this is no longer the case but principal among them are changes in agricultural methods. These have proved beneficial to us in many ways but to sections of the natural world they have been fatal. The chief agents of change have been pesticides and the correctly named insecticides. With the exception of the common midge, all species of native insects have suffered to some degree.

Caithness and Sutherland are home to two species of bumblebee that have been lost to much of the rest of Britain: the Great yellow and the Moss carder. The Great yellow nests in the ground, in general detritus and under sheds, like other species of bumblebee. The Moss carder however, makes its nest in grassland from bits of dried grass and other plant material, binding them together to form a loose bundle about the size of a tennis ball. Both species survive in the flow country because the local climate is only moderately favourable to arable farming and, in all but the most intensive livestock regimes, native flowers and grasses have a chance to prosper.

Fishermen who enjoy looking around them and are unsure about bumblebee identification, may be interested in BeeWatch. You take a digital photo of the insect, upload it and are then guided through the identification process. Click here for details.

Moss carder bee  Bombus muscorum

Great yellow bumblebee  Bombus distinguendus

Male        Worker       Queen

Male        Worker       Queen

The historic distribution of the Great yellow bumblebee

(Map courtesy of BWARS)

Great yellow bumblebee

Bombus distinguendus