'Spotted a sweet looking hed on the AP wire this morning. From London the service's Meera Selva wrote it and editors dispatched it under the beguiling Homecoming buzz: Short-haired bees return to UK. Awww. You don't even have to know what a short-haired bee is to like the sound of that. That it's of the genus Bombus thus formally a bumblebee, some people call them humble-bees, augments the anticipated charm. The story doesn't stretch the news beyond the routine but has the basics. Which are that short-haired bees were not all that common, but widespread and especially in southern England historically. Their rarity rose over the last half century or so, perhaps because farming practices changed and flowering hay, thistles, and other hedgerow and field plants dwindled. Bombus subterranus eventually vanished from the realm - last one sighted in 1988. Now, with suitable habitat identified and restoration of more of it underway, conservationists have obtained a fresh stock of queens from Sweden. These bombers are back, however precariously.
A look around for other coverage finds more news - and a twist. Much of the most recent batch of news makes the episode seem all fuzzy-warm, as per the swarm of press releases by UK conservation organizations. But this, as we shall see, has not been an entirely amicable exercise in Bombus restoration management.
First, the new batch:
- Guardian - Maev Kennedy: Bumblebee lost to UK makes comeback on Dungeness shingle / Natural History Museum scientist leads reintroduction...;
- Kent News - Chris Murphy: Rare short-haired bees released at Dungeness ; Plainly written, even at points elegantly so - except for too much passive tense. However, well reported. Murphy goes beyond the press releases, although he does pick up quotes from them with no mention he didn't hear them firsthand. Here readers do briefly get word that there was a troublesome patch. Another set of stories will round that up in a moment.
- Telegraph: Short-haired bumblebee reintroduced into Britain ;
- Wired - Mark Brown: Short-haired bumblebee to be brought back to Britain ;
- Express - Enthusiasts Humming at Bee's Return ;
Grist for the latest Mill:
Bumblebee Conservation Trust Press Release ; Natural England Press Release ; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (and much else in nature, hence it goes by the less restrictive sounding RSPB) Press Release ; Nikki's Blog (by the woman heading up the reintroduction program).
The Rest of the Story: We gotta go back a whole month.
- The Local/ Sweden's News in English (Apr 29) - Peter Vinthagen Simpson: UK bumblebee push sparks Swedish anger ; Where we learn that in the land of the Vikings there remains a twinge of anger at the old British Empire's appetite for swag and a distaste for receipts ;
- Wildlife News (blog) Kevin Heath: Anger growing over Swedish bee imports ;
- BBC (May 4) Emma Kasprzak: How UK's humble bee project led to Swedish outrage ;
So when news on this long-running project got around in Sweden, local authorities in the bee fields where the Brits planned to harvest a few short-haired queens got upset. Nasty language popped up. Things did get settled. But how could so many reporters in the UK, with the exception of the one at the local Kent News taht my limited search turned up, have decided not to mention this kerfuffle again this week? Perhaps they did not decide that, they just did not know about it. But ... it was no secret. The Beeb had it just a short while ago. Perhaps reporters on this week's big moment, as the Swedish bees entered airspace where their conspecific English cousins once flew, relied entirely on press releases and whatever the sponsors of the bee reintroduction told them, not checking what we used to call the clips but today just means looking around with a search engine. If so, that's a shame. Every story benefits, when it comes to readability and appeal, from conflict. Mention of a few soreheads in Sweden, even if they have now settled down, would have added depth and drama.
And good luck to those new bees bumbling about in Kent.
- Charlie Petit