4th June 2013- Biodiversity update and bumblebee survey

Today’s bumblebee survey was a complete contrast to the one we attempted last week in the grey, slightly drizzly, definitely windy conditions. Last week we succeeded in identifying two individuals bravely feeding on the Cotoneaster horizontalis on the kitchen drive- both workers, one Bombus terrestris and one Bombus lapidarius.

For both surveys we were not able to enlist the help of our usual bumble guru Nikki Gammans who has been tied up this week with releasing short haired bumblebee queens at Dungeness as part of the Short Haired Bumblebee Reintroduction Project.  Up to date information on the project can be found on Nikki’s blog.

Going it alone today we found 4 species, all workers but in much greater numbers than in previous surveys, probably largely down to our meadows being in full flower. Not having Nikki as a security blanket we captured (and released) a fair few individuals to make sure we were getting it right.

Today’s species- Bombus lapidarius, Bombus terrestris, Bombus hortorum and Bombus pascuorum.

Workers are definitely on the small side this year- which can only be down to the poor forage available at the start of the season because of the late spring. Hopefully matters will improve for later broods.


3 year old meadow – made using strewings from our flower rich meadow elsewhere in the garden.

??????????????????????????????? identification

Dixter staff Catherine Haydock and Sarah Seymour in full recording action

view back up

Another view of the new meadow- not all buttercups when you look more closely


Bombus lapidarius– a rather grisly picture taken in the field.

In other exciting news – a rare mining bee has been discovered at Great Dixter.

We are very lucky with our volunteers, who are helping us establish the baseline data for the species within the Dixter estate. Now we have been joined by Ian Beavis from Tunbridge Wells Museum who came for an afternoon to have a first look at Dixter. Here is what he found in just a few hours, we shall look forward to future visits and discovering more of the species here at Dixter. Also, very nice to acknowledge that the rare Banded Mining bee was found on the common or garden dandelion. It is really good news that our flower rich meadows are assisting these rare species.

“My visit to Great Dixter on 10 May demonstrated that the gardens and flower-rich meadows – which already known to support three rare bumblebees, have great potential for solitary bees too.  The most exciting find was the Banded Mining Bee (Andrena gravida) which is a Red Data Book 1(Nationally Endangered) species, and is also on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species List.  A female was found visiting dandelion flowers in one of the grassland areas.  The females, like those of other mining bees, nest individually in burrows excavated in the ground, which are stocked with nectar and pollen as a food store for their young.  Both sexes are characterised by white hair-bands on the      abdomen and white hairs on the face.  Historically this bee has had something of a stronghold in the High Weald, with old records from both the Tunbridge Wells and Hastings areas, but it had not been seen for many years before I rediscovered it near Tunbridge Wells in 2011.”

A gravida female 1

Andrena gravida

“Also found in the meadows was a female of the Girdled Mining Bee (Andrena labiata), which is a Nationally Scarce species associated particularly with open flower-rich grassland.  Both sexes have a partly red abdomen, and a distinctive white face in the male.  This bee has a strong association with Germander Speedwell, which is the favoured flower for females foraging for the food store in their nest burrows.”

A labiata

Andrena labiate

Ian Beavis

Finally, we look forward to the return of our group of spider experts (I would call them spidermen but one of them isn’t..) this Saturday (weather permitting- which looks promising). They hope to expand upon the 125 species recorded on their last visit, which included one nationally rare species and two that were new to Sussex. More updates soon.

Oh- and nearly forgot to say… saw a grass snake basking in the ditch by the new meadow. Made my day!


About Catherine

I am the Education Officer at Great Dixter and get to do all sorts of fun things for a living..
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One Response to 4th June 2013- Biodiversity update and bumblebee survey

  1. Pingback: The Life Cycle of the Bumble Bee. | Zee-Rebel

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