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What are Bumblebees?

There are 22 species of bumblebee that currently exist in the UK, although some are given multiple common names which can give the impression of there being many more.

Why are Bumblebees important to the Surrey Hills?

Bumblebees help to pollinate a number of commercial crops and many wild plants rely on their pollinating activities, so they’re hugely important contributors towards maintaining biodiversity.

The condition of bumblebee habitat and successful breeding is threatened by:

  • Management regimes that reduce the availability and diversity of flowering plants and shrubs
  • Management regimes that reduce the availability of suitable nesting habitat.
  • Disease

What habitat do Bumblebees like?


Permanent pasture and rough grazing (hills, heath and moorland) accounts for about 58% of the total utilised agricultural area in England of 17.36 million hectares. This rises to nearly 65% if temporary grassland (under 5 years old) is included. This figure will include specific grassland types such as chalk grassland, dry acid grassland and floodplain grazing marsh but the majority will be agriculturally improved pastures that support the livestock sector.

True bumblebees have a queen who emerges from hibernation having mated the previous summer. After replenishing her own body reserves, she immediately sets about forming a new colony. The first batch to be reared is female workers whose role it is to provide food and care for the new colony. Males and new queens appear later in the season with the whole colony including the old queen ultimately dying that season and only the new queens having the possibility of surviving into the following year.

What can be done to benefit Bumblebees?

Good management and habitat creation opportunities for bumblebees include:
  • The encouragement or creation of flower-rich meadows and field margins
  • Leaving existing grass margins uncut until well into the autumn
  • The creation of pollen and nectar plots which are managed to provide the longest possible flowering period
  • Leaving uncut margins around grass fields and legume crops such as red clover and lucerne
  • Being aware of where bumblebees might nest and causing as little disturbance as possible to that area


Creating and managing areas for Bumblebees will help deliver the following benefits to communities:
  • Clean water
  • Clean air
  • Protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards
  • Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • Beauty, heritage and engagement

These illustrations are by an artist taking part in a programme delivered by Watts Gallery Trust and funded by the Michael Varah Memorial Fund. This series of 30 Surrey Hills Indicator Species were commissioned by Surrey Hills Society and funded by Surrey Hills Trust Fund as part of the Making Space for Nature Exhibition.