Long-horned bee - Eucera longicornis

Rare bees recorded - Great British Bee Count 2018

Over 480,000 records were submitted during the Great British Bee Count 2018. Most were common species, which helps build valuable data for research - but there were a few rarities too.
  16 Jul 2018    |      5 min

Thanks to you, thousands of verified bee records from this year's Great British Bee Count will help experts develop their understanding about bee populations.

You've done an incredible job - these insects are notoriously hard to photograph. But even blurry photos can help verify a sighting, as you'll see below, so don't worry about getting a perfect picture.

Many of you recorded common species - but we also had some rarer sightings. Rory Dimond, Scientific Advisor to the Great British Bee Count, reveals which bees got the team most excited this year.

1) Long-horned bee (Eucera longicornis)

Recorded by: Sarah Anderson, Keiron LeVine and Edwin Bailey-Davison

Location: Cornwall, Isle of Wight and London

Long-horned bee (Eucera longicornis)
Long-horned bee (Eucera longicornis)
Credit: Keiron LeVine / Great British Bee Count 2018

We asked you to look out for this much declined solitary bee, which specialises on legume-rich wildflower areas. It was recorded at three different sites, including a nest site in Cornwall and a lone male in an Isle of Wight garden. Another was spotted at a new nest site along Parkland Walk, London, by 6 year-old Edwin and his dad!

Spotting tips: Squat body with buff or grey-brown hair and hairy legs. Males have very long antennae. Females have a white tail. Nest in the ground or soft cliffs. Active May-August.

Read more: Iconic Bees: Long-horned bee

2) Bilberry bumblebee (Bombus monticola)

Recorded by: Laura Roberts, Jean Roberts, Carol Williams, Lorcan Gill

Location: Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Wrexham, South Lanarkshire

Bilberry bumblebee - Bombus monticola (male)
Bilberry bumblebee - Bombus monticola (male)
Credit: Laura Roberts / Great British Bee Count 2018

During our verification work, we've found four Bilberry bumblebees in your submissions. This bumblebee is mostly found in cool, upland areas and is much scarcer due to habitat loss and possibly climate change.

Spotting tips: At least two-thirds of the thorax is coloured red-orange, with two yellow bands on the abdomen. Males have a hairy yellow face. Hair is long and scruffy. Active May to October.

Read more: Iconic Bees: Bilberry bumblebee

3) Large garden bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus)

Recorded by: Maria Curtis

Location: Suffolk

Large garden bumblebee - Bombus hortorum
Large garden bumblebee - Bombus hortorum
Credit: Maria Curtis / Great British Bee Count 2018

During verification, our data volunteer Jerry singled out a fuzzy black bee that looked a bit different. It turned out to be a male Large garden bumblebee, spotted by Maria Curtis on honeysuckle in a Suffolk garden. This long-tongued bumblebee has seriously declined due to the loss of wildflower meadows, but is showing signs of recovery, including moving into gardens.

Spotting tips: A large bumblebee with a long face. Colour varies from having three bright yellow bands and a white tail to being completely black. Hair is short and neat. Males have gingery hairs on their mandibles (jaws). Active May-August.

Read more: Iconic Bees: Large garden bumblebee

4) Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum)

Recorded by: Karl Dean

Location: Essex

Shrill carder bee - Bombus sylvarum
Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum) feeding on pink flower
Credit: Karl Dean / Great British Bee Count 2018

We asked you to look out for this species, one of Britain's rarest bumblebees. Karl Dean managed to spot a queen in his garden in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex. Shrill carder bees are being helped by Back from the Brink, a project to improve and link habitats for this species. Its work is focused on two of this bee's remaining population strongholds, Somerset and the Thames Gateway area, the latter where Karl recorded his bee.

Spotting tips: Pale yellow and grey bands with a peachy tail. Dark grey band across the middle of the thorax. Has a high-pitched buzz, hence its name. Active May-September.

5) Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis)

Recorded by: Karl Dean

Location: Essex

Brown-banded carder bee - Bombus humilis
Brown-banded carder bee - Bombus humilis
Credit: Karl Dean / Great British Bee Count 2018

Also spotted by Karl, a rare Brown-banded carder bee at Essex Wildlife Trust's Chafford Gorges Nature Park, in a newly-created wildflower meadow. Well done Karl!

Spotting tips: Mainly buff-haired with a ginger or chestnut ‘cap’ on the thorax (mid-section) and a distinct ginger-brown band on the abdomen. Active May-September.

Record bees all year round

Thousands of your verified sightings will now help experts build their knowledge of where species live. If you’re keen to record bees during the rest of the year, read about bee surveys you can take part in to help scientific research.

Easy ways to help bees