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Gardeners urged to help bumblebee

The common bumblebee is under threat, groups say

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LONDON, England -- UK gardeners have been called upon to do their bit to help prevent the extinction of the bumblebee.

Numbers have fallen drastically during the past couple of decades with figures plummeting by 60 percent for some bee species, the National Trust and government wildlife advisers warn.

Now the trust and English Nature are urging gardeners to preserve the bees' last refuge -- the domestic garden -- by using brightly colored plants, and to avoid growing newer hybrids that are devoid of nectar and pollen.

The charities are using the launch of the internationally-renowned Chelsea Flower show in London next week to promote the plight of the insect.

"Every garden counts in the wildlife stakes, whether large or small, urban or rural, with over 15 million gardens across the country, gardeners collectively can make a huge difference," Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, said.

They blame modern intensive farming methods, with its use of high doses of pesticides, for the fall in figures, as well as a change away from insect pollinated crops.

The National Trust and English Nature are encouraging farmers to leave wider margins at the edge of fields and grow hedgerows to support bumblebees' natural habitat.

Bee-lovers also blame a common fear and misunderstanding among the public about the bees aggressiveness, leading to large numbers of bumblebee nests being destroyed each year. The mistake is caused by confusing bumblebees with wasps and honey bees.

"Without wild bees our gardens would be sterile places but we do not always give enough thought to how we manage our gardens to encourage these beneficial insects," Reynolds said.

Gardeners should opt for brightly colored flowers such as white, blue, yellow and purple to encourage bees along with 'cottage style' plants including bluebells, rosemary, nettles foxgloves and honeysuckle, she says.

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