Why should we monitor bumblebees?
Bumblebees are Ireland’s most important wild pollinators. By monitoring our bumblebee populations, we can identify species in trouble and detect the early warning signs of a general threat to wild bees and to Irish pollination services.
The All-Ireland Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme is a citizen science monitoring scheme, and as such is an ideal tool for individuals, community groups and professional land managers to measure change in their local biodiversity. The ongoing recording of bumblebee communities provides a sensitive metric against which changes in land-use and its impact on our biodiversity can be monitored. It is particularly valuable for measuring the impact of management changes made under the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.
Status of bumblebees in Ireland
There are 21 different bumblebee species in Ireland. In 2006, the Irish Bee Red List found that four species are endangered (Bombus barbutellus, B. distinguendus, B. rupestris & B. sylvarum) and two species are vulnerable to extinction (B. campestris & B. ruderarius). Another three species are ‘Near Threatened’ (B. bohemicus, B. lapidarius & B. muscorum).
The All-Ireland Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme has been tracking changes in bumblebee populations since 2012. The multi-species index is derived from tracking changes in the populations of the 8 commonest species. The current overall trend from 2012-2022 is a year-on-year decline of 3.3%.
Bombus pascuroum (Common Carder Bee) has traditionally been one of our most common bumblebees, but is now showing a moderate decline. Unfortunately, Bombus muscorum (Large Carder Bee) is in severe decline. Bombus terrestris (Buff-tailed Bumblebee) is stable. The status of the other five common species remains uncertain.
What does a monitoring walk look like?
Participating in this scheme involves establishing a fixed walking route (transect) of between 1 km and 2km in length that is monitored once a month from March to October (8 times annually). The route should be established close to where you live or work to make it convenient for you to complete the counts when the weather is suitable. The transect should be divided into 5-15 smaller sections to form sample units. The number of bumblebees seen within 2.5 m either side of yourself and 5 m in front (a 5 m3 recording ‘box’) are counted for each section. Counts should be completed between 11:00 and 17:00hrs, when the temperature is at least 13°C and during good weather conditions.
Occasionally, you might walk your route and not see any bumblebees. This happens more often at the beginning and end of the season. It is still very important to log these ‘zero abundance’ walks.
Participation in this scheme involves a time commitment, but by taking part, you will help generate very high quality data on Irish bumblebees.
How to join the All-Ireland Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme
We always need more volunteers. Beginners are very welcome to join the scheme, but it does involve dedicating time to learn to recognise the different bumblebee species. Most people will see around 7 different species on their walk.
If you are interested, we recommend that you first take our online course in bumblebee identification. This also explains in more detail how the monitoring scheme works.
If you are still interested in giving the scheme a try, please get in touch directly so that you can be added to the monthly mailing list to receive advice on what to watch out for each month: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can join the scheme at any time throughout the season.
Biodiversity Monitoring in Ireland
Within the Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme data must be submitted online (we do not have the capacity to accept paper records unfortunately). The Biodiversity Monitoring system is used for initially telling us about your route, and then for entering your data each month. See the tutorial above for details of how to use this system. This system is used for the Butterfly Monitoring Scheme and the Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme only.
Never hesitate to get in touch if you need any help: email@example.com