On Tuesday we had our second “bee” walk, organised for us by Nikki Gammans of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. (The first was at Dungeness RSPB reserve). We were met at Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve by Rosie of Buglife and, after an introductory talk, we set off armed with nets and plastic pots. To begin with bumblebees were rather scarce and not easy to find – probably due to the rather cloudy and cool conditions. But we soon found Common carder bees and a number of small solitary bees.
A little later, with the sun shining, we came across a large ivy in flower that was absolutely covered in bees, wasps and hoverflies. Most of the bees were ivy bees (yes – naming bees is that easy!). There must have been 100 or more and Sue’s photograph shows them well. This species is rapidly colonising southern England having only arrived, from Europe, in about 2001.
Our main target species for the morning was the Shrill carder bee Bombus sylvarum. This is probably our rarest bumblebee but the Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve is one of the best places to find it. Rosie spotted some large patches of Birds-foot trefoil with its large yellow flowers. Apparently Shrill carder bees find them irresistible! And Rosie was correct. We soon found a number of Shrill carder bee workers and eventually we found a single male. Rosie explained that finding a male was a good sign – the bee colonies were now producing individuals with “reproductive capability” ie they can mate! For most of the 20 people in the group this was their first ever sighting of a Shrill carder bee. And would you believe it, no one has sent me a half decent photograph to use with this post! So use this link. to find out more.