A LARGE number of the most threatened bee species in the South West have been lost in some counties, a new report has revealed.

Nature conservation charity Buglife said of 23 species considered to be at risk in the UK, 20 are declining, while three have become extinct.

Although the South West remains a stronghold for some types of bee, Buglife's manager in the region said they were still at risk.

Andrew Whitehouse said insect pollinators faced a number of pressures which had all contributed to their decline, including a loss of wild flower-rich natural and semi-natural habitats through intensive farming and the increased use of pesticides.

The loss of bee habitats to development and the unpredictable and extreme weather resulting from climate change had also taken their toll.

Buglife said half of the UK's 27 bumblebee species were in decline, along with two-thirds of moths and more than 70 per cent of butterflies.

The large garden bumblebee is still found in Gloucestershire and Somerset but in the past 50 years has disappeared from Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.

Mr Whitehouse said: "We need to take urgent action to reverse the declines in our bees. By making space for wildlife in our countryside and restoring the wildflower-rich habitats that bees rely upon, we can offer hope for our region's bees."

Wild bees are vital to the countryside and agriculture as they pollinate crops and wild flowers. It is estimated that 84 per cent of European Union crops, valued annually at £12.6 billion, and 80 per cent of wild flowers rely on insect pollination.