Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is working with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to make its construction sites in Caithness more bee-friendly by restoring and creating habitat.

The Great yellow bumblebee is amongst the rarest of bumblebees in the UK, declining by about 90% in the past 50 years. This reduction is thought to be principally due to habitat loss and intensification of farming. One of the last strongholds is in Caithness and Orkney where it is found not only on the coast but also in fields.

The flower-rich grassy meadows with different flowering plants in Caithness, such as bird’s-foot trefoil, red clover and knapweed, provide the ideal habitat for the Great yellow bumblebee.

SSEN’s Caithness-Moray project is at the heart of the biggest renewal of the north of Scotland’s electricity network in a generation and includes reinforcement of the onshore transmission network in Caithness between Dounreay and Mybster and between Loch Buidhe and Beauly.

To ensure that the investment works being carried out by SSEN leave a positive impact on the environment, SSEN and its contractor, Balfour Beatty, sought advice from local bee experts to amend proposed planting to make them more ‘bee-friendly’.

By providing a different mix of flowers including early flowering plants and nesting and hibernation places, it is hoped that other species will also benefit for this biodiversity enhancement.

Project Manager, Alistair Muir, said: “As a responsible developer, we are keen that our developments have a minimal impact on the communities and environments that we operate in. By working with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, we have been able to engage the project teams at an early stage.

“Everyone on site is now aware of the Great yellow bumblebee and we have identification materials available on site to help ensure that habitat and other features which are important to Great yellow bumblebees are created in Caithness and help towards the long-term survival of the bees.”

Katy Malone, Conservation Officer (Scotland) with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust said, “Providing tailored advice and guidance on this site will benefit the rare Great yellow bumblebee by supporting SSEN and Balfour Beatty in restoring and creating high quality habitat. It will add to the excellent work being done by the communities of Caithness and beyond to sustain our vitally important pollinators.”

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