Rarest Bee in Britain found at Enchanted Gardens

On 30th April 2019, during a Bumblebee Trust guided walk, a rare Shrill Carder was found in our garden. The members of the Bumble Bee Conservation organization said they had a fantastic day and were so pleased that they’ve found so many interesting species; they thought it was really special.  “It was a great find and shows how important gardens and the right planting can be for our pollinators.”

Here is a list of bees they saw during their visit:

  • Shrill carder Bee (Bombus sylvarum) Queen (1.0-1.8cm) which has a strong association with complex flowers in the families Lamiacaea and Fabacaea and is a distinctive greyish-green, straw-coloured species, with a dull orange tail and clear black band across the thorax. It was seen here foraging on White-Dead Nettle
  • Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum) Queen on white dead nettle and on Solomon’s Seal
  • Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) Queen Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) workers
  • Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) Queen
  • Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)
  • Hairy Footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes) males and females foraging on Honeywort (Cerinthe major)
  • Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis) female Grey-patched
  • Mining Bee (Andrena nitida) females

The Shrill Carder bee can be spotted flying quickly around flowers in unimproved pastures. The queens produce a loud, high-pitched buzz, hence the name. Sadly, this particular bee species is declining and appears to be restricted to just a few sites in south Wales and southern England. However, more frequent sightings reassure us that it might be back from the brink now! It loves white Nettle, Hedge Woundwort, Black Horehound and legumes such as Red Clover, Birds-Foot Trefoil and Meadow Vetchling. It also enjoys late flowering species such as Red Bartsia, Common Knapweed and Scabious, as well as weeds such as Ragwort and Thistles… which are all, but a few, grown here on site in our specialized pollinator-friendly nursery.

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Image left: Bex Cartwright from the ‘Making a Buzz for the Coast  Project’. @BuzzingCoast – an exciting and ambitious project, that spans 135 miles of Kent’s coastline from Dartford to Deal, and focuses on restoring and creating habitat for Kent’s wild bees, especially the Shrill carder bee  https://twitter.com/BuzzingCoast. The Bumblebee Trust explains that the Shrill carder bee normally occupies varied habitats such as the dry grasslands of Salisbury Plain and Castle Martin Ranges, but also coastal and brownfield sites in the Thames Gateway as well as wet grazing marshes of the Somerset and Gwent Levels.

Other than the extinct and re-introducedShort-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus), the Shrill Carder is perhaps our rarest bumblebee, now known only from a handful of sites, but generally scarce even there. In April and May, queen Shrill Carder Bees emerge from hibernation and build nests out of grass and plant fibres on the ground, or slightly underneath it. Each nest supports a small colony of workers and a queen. The reigning queen rears her workers in wax cells, who subsequently rear the young on pollen and nectar. Workers are on the wing from May to late September and males from July to late September. The queens hibernate from October to April. In April and May, queen Shrill Carder Bees emerge from hibernation and build nests out of grass and plant fibres on the ground, or slightly underneath it. Each nest supports a small colony of workers and a queen. The reigning queen rears her workers in wax cells, who subsequently rear the young on pollen and nectar. One farmer in Donna’s neighbourhood has given up over 160 acres of land just to encourage more bees! 

On 9th May 2019 the BBC One South East News Today team came down to produced a feature about this amazing discovery: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0004zk0. Furthermore, Donna was interviewed live by BBC Radio Kent the day before about the extinction of species.

Naturally, we are delighted to have it here with us in Seasalter, near Whitstable in Kent. We are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful area, home to thousands of wildfowl and waders – an absolute haven for bird watchers, ramblers and nature enthusiasts! The Enchanted Gardens nursery is nestled at the bottom of Wraik Hill & Foxes Cross Bottom, an area of small fields, scrub and woodland to the south west of Whitstable.

These two sites are linked by an area of land in Pilgrims Lane, and the whole site is managed by Canterbury City Council in partnership with Kent Wildlife Trust. There is a network of paths and a public footpath links the site to Ellenden Wood –part of ‘The Blean’ complex of ancient woodland. The area is grazed using ponies and Highland cattle to keep the grass short and allow a wide range of grassland species to grow. In places the Wraik Hill site is very steep and muddy, but the steepest point has far reaching views over the Seasalter Levels and out towards the Isle of Sheppey -well worth the climb! We are also near Graveney Marshes (part of the South Swale #NatureReserve) and Oare Marshes,  only 15min away from us.

The Bumblebee Trust knows that to really have an impact and make a difference for all our wild bees around the coast they are going to need as much help as possible. They will be touring the coast with a programme of events about the importance of bees to Kent, build pride in the rare species that live right on peoples’ doorsteps and most importantly of all, inspire people to take some action to help. In addition, they will be working with Kent Wildlife Trust in Swale to improve roadside verges for pollinators, creating ‘Bee-roads’ and increasing habitat connectivity. Another key element of the project is supporting landowners, ranging from farmers and fruit producers to holiday parks, golf courses, small holders and large estates. They will provide free and bespoke information and advice on restoring and creating pollinator habitat. The www.bumblebeeconservation.org has also set up a scheme called ‘Buzzing Gardens’: This means planting pollen and nectar rich wildflowers in your garden to provide a valuable food source for bumblebees. They have teamed up with Kent Wildlife Trust to award the Garden with the Best Buzz category as a part of their ‘Wild About Gardens’ competition. Donna’s garden is in for a Silver Gilt and also a ‘special award’!

The @BuzzingCoast  project will work with the RSPB, Thanet District Council and Thames Water on five sites to provide habitat for rare bumblebees and solitary bees. #BuzzingCoast Nationaltrust.org.uk Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust Visit Kent What’s On Kent Butterfly Conservation BBC Radio Kent – Sunday Gardening BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine BBC Gardeners World #GraveneyMarshes #OareMarshes #SouthSwale #BleanWoods Trees for Cities Kent Tree and Pond Partnership GREAT – Graveney Rural Environment Action Team #savebutterflies #savebees #ChrisPackham Greenpeace UK @BumblebeeConservationTrust RSPB Love Nature Visit Swale Visit Faversham Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Kent Wildlife Trust RSPB South East

Enchanted Gardens Nursery @Sonoma House, Pilgrims Lane, Seasalter/ Yorkletts, nr. Whitstable, Kent, CT5 3AP

For enquiries and group bookings call: Office: 01227 266070 Donna: 07967 917161 E-Mail: donna@enchantedgardenskent.co.uk

We are open Tuesday – Friday from April through to October 10am till 3pm.  Everyone is welcome on Saturdays too, but an email or text prior is necessary. We are open Tuesday – Friday from April through to October 10am till 3pm