Ham Hill scheme to save Shrill Carder Bee

SOUTH Somerset District Council is working with organisations including the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust to save the rare Shrill Carder bee. The council’s team at Ham Hill Country Park has started habitat management to encourage the bees to recolonise from an existing population nearby.

The work is centred around the hay meadows in the flat fields of the park, and will include leaving areas of dense tussock grass for the bees to nest and hibernate. Shrill Carder bees emerge from June to October, so the aim is to create habitat that will be a haven of late blooming wildflowers for the bees to forage from. In particular flowers from the pea, daisy, mint and broomrape plant families have been shown to be important to these bees.

Shrill Carder bee populations are threatened by loss and fragmentation of habitat and they only exist in five isolated areas of the UK, of which Somerset is one. The small number of surviving populations makes the Shrill Carder bee vulnerable to inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity, further increasing the risk of local extinctions.

The council’s involvement in the work has come from a steering group which was developed within the “Back from the brink” Shrill Carder Bee Project. The partnership is made up of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Buglife, the Bees Wasps & Ants Recording Society, Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru/Natural Resources Wales, the RSPB and Natural England and is endorsed by 25 other organisations, including SSDC.

SSDC countryside manager Rachael Whaites said: “It’s great to be involved in a national conservation project and to play our part in helping to conserve the Shrill Carder bee. The habitat management work that the rangers will undertake at Ham Hill for the Shrill Carder bee will also benefit many other species, including other pollinating insects, small mammals, reptiles and birds.”

For more about the rare Shrill Carder bee visit https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/red-tailed-bumblebees/shrill-carder-bee/

Pictured: The Shrill Carder bee, Bombus sylvarum; Diverse wildflower species in the hay meadows at Ham Hill provide important foraging habitat for pollinators.