Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 697–707 | Cite as

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

  • Gillian C. LyeEmail author
  • Juliet L. Osborne
  • Kirsty J. Park
  • Dave Goulson


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.


Bombus spp. Conservation Nest ecology Public outreach Species decline 



We would like to thank all members of the public who took part in the survey for their time, enthusiasm and cooperation. We would also like to thank staff and volunteers at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust for help with the advertisement and processing of nest surveys. Finally, we would like to thank the Natural Environment Research Council and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust for financial support.

Supplementary material

10841_2011_9450_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 18 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian C. Lye
    • 1
    Email author
  • Juliet L. Osborne
    • 2
  • Kirsty J. Park
    • 1
  • Dave Goulson
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK
  2. 2.Department of Plant and Invertebrate EcologyRothamsted ResearchHarpenden, HertfordshireUK

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