Charity’s buzzing about the role bees play in boosting much-loved donkeys

The Donkey Sanctuary held a ‘bumblebee workshop’ to show how the popular pollinators benefit the environment around the Sidmouth-based charity’s star attractions.

A day-long course involved members of the public, staff and volunteers from the cause, National Trust rangers and conservation trainees form Natural England.

It was organised as The Donkey Sanctuary teamed up with The Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Bees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and others are essential for pollinating the flowering plants, grasses and trees that the resident donkeys benefit from.

The presence of different bee species can tell a lot about the health of an environment. And as bumblebees are relatively conspicuous and easy to identify, wildlife and conservation team at the sanctuary can use them as indicators for habitat quality.

Daniel Brown, conservation officer at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “The Bumblebee Conservation Trust knows roughly where different bee species are, but not how many of these bees there are.

“We were given training to conduct a bee walk, which involves counting the number of bumblebees observed along a 1-2km route. This then helps the trust estimate the abundance of bumblebees across the UK.”

The donkeys themselves play their part too; a number of solitary bee species have made nest holes in the bare ground created by donkey hooves.

The sanctuary is also exploring how the health and wellbeing of donkeys, people and the natural environment can be integrated on its land. Woodlands, ponds, hedge banks and grassland are used by dormice, farmland birds, at least 11 species of bat, butterflies and bees, as well as many other kinds of wildlife.

If you would like to help the conservation team with their wildlife surveys, email

An award-winning RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden, summer fair and, of course, the animals….what’s on at The Donkey Sanctuary

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