, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 697-707
Date: 23 Nov 2011

Using citizen science to monitor Bombus populations in the UK: nesting ecology and relative abundance in the urban environment

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Citizen science can provide a valuable tool for collecting large quantities of ecological data over a larger geographic area than would otherwise be possible. Here, data were collected on 1,022 bumblebee nests by means of a public survey in which participants were asked to record attributes of bumblebee nests discovered in their gardens. All commonly reported species appeared to be generalist in their nest site selection and though species-specific differences in nest site choice were evident, there was a high degree of overlap in nesting habitat between most species. There was little evidence supporting the hypothesis that bumblebees tend to nest in the same site in consecutive years. A comparison of the contributions made by different species to the total nests reported in this and previous similar surveys suggests that the common bumblebee species Bombus pascuorum may have declined over the past 20 years relative to other species, comprising ~21% of colonies discovered in a survey conducted in 1989–1991, but just 8–9% of colonies in 2007–2009. This was accompanied by a reduction in the proportion of nests on the ground surface (the preferred position of this species). This is the first quantitative evidence of potential declines in the one of the UK’s ‘big six’ common bumblebee species.