Seaside bees

Pic credits: Great Yellow bumblebee, Laurie Campbell; Brown-banded carder bee, Ray Reeves; Moss carder bee, Nick Withers

The Great Yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus), is one of our rarest bumblebees, only found on flower-rich machair areas around the coast in the Orkneys, Inner and Outer Hebrides, and Caithness and Sutherland where traditional crofting and low intensity agriculture means red clovers , bird’s food trefoil and other vetches are in good supply.  Bumblebee Conservation Trust is working to save the bee.

Moss carder bee (Bombus muscorum) is another rare bee also found in Scotland and the Pennines, on moors eating knapweeds and vetches. Further south it’s confined to flowery coastal marshland, like Romney Marsh in Kent where a BBCT project has brought this bleached bodied, long tongued bee back from the brink by working with farmers to plant their favourite food. Queens measure 14mm, making them the largest carder bee in Britain.

Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) is another rarity, restricted to coastal areas along the south coast of England and Wales from May to September. It also looks like it’s been spending too much time in the sun with its pale blonde body and has benefited from the BBCT project above.

Ruderal bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus) is so rare you have to be extremely lucky to catch site of it in a few isolated pocket along the south coast between Rye and Folkstone, and in Lincolnshire where red clovers still grows abundantly. Queens are a huge 18mm and look like a giant Garden bumblebee. Nine of them have been recently recorded by BBCT trust staff in central Carmarthenshire.

Pantaloon bee ((Dasypoda hirtipes) is a solitary bee you have a good chance of seeing excavating its nest, with its oversized pollen brushes, or ‘pantaloons’ in sandy banks and footpaths if you’re holidaying anywhere from Dorset to Norfolk and maybe even Wales.

Sandpit Blood bee (Sphecodes pellucidus) is one of 17 UK species of the cleptoparasite Blood bees which take over the nests of various ground nesting furrow bees and mining bees. They are small (5-7mm), and non-hairy, but have a distinct red segment on their otherwise black abdomen which looks as if they have been drinking blood. This one hangs out on coastal dunes and rock cliffs and heathland where its host, the brown, fluffier Sandpit mining bee (Andrena barbilabris) is commonly found.

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