Save important nature sites for bees

Some of our most amazing bees can be found on nature sites protected by EU laws.
  Published:  26 Jul 2017    |      3 minute read

Last year, half a million people asked the EU and national governments to keep these laws and enforce them better, and the EU agreed.

We are now working to ensure that the UK Government keeps these laws in place after we leave the EU. Read 'Policies for pollinators'.

Places which are important to some amazing bee species include Salisbury Plain, the Pevensey Levels, parts of the South Downs, the North Antrim coast, and the saltmarshes of North Norfolk.

To find out more about the importance of these sites, we spoke to Laurie Jackson, Farm Pollinator and Wildlife Advisor for Buglife. She told us more about the solitary bees and bumblebees that live on protected sites in Kent and Sussex.

1. Why are these sites so important for rare bees?

The flower-rich grassland along with shrubby areas and tall herbs provide an important source of food for wild bees. Importantly the variety of plants means that they flower at different times providing a sequential source of food. They also provide essential nesting resources – such as bare earth and warm banks, and areas of denser vegetation such as tussocky grassland and scrub.

The geology can also be significant for some species such as Potter flower-bee. It is one of a number of bee species that excavate nest sites underground and requires easy to mine and free-draining substrates, which can be found in areas such as the River Cuckmere estuary in East Sussex.

In the UK around 75% of pollination is carried out by wild insect pollinators so it's vital we protect their habitats".

2. Which bees have you found at these places?

On some parts of the South Downs (including Lewes Downs and Castle Hill) you can find some amazing bees such as the Brown-banded carder-bee (main image), Two-coloured mason-bee, Trimmer’s mining-bee, Blue carpenter-bee , and Red bartsia bee.

The Pevensey Levels is important for the Moss carder-bee, Small scabious mining-bee, and Long-horned bee.

Long horned bee on purple flower
Long horned bee
Credit: Flora Lingfield/Great British Bee Count

3. Why are these sites special places to visit?

Sites such as these offer the opportunity to explore the UK’s remaining pockets of semi-natural habitats, where you can still find flower-rich habitats alive with insects.

An encounter with the Long-horned bee always brightens my day. There is something very endearing about this species and you may still be lucky enough to spot the males patrolling some areas of Kent and Sussex in May and June. Their incredible long antennae make them unmistakable.

4. Why is it so important to connect protected pockets of habitat?

We know that Buglife is working with landowners in Kent and Sussex to create B-Lines of connected habitat in Kent and Sussex to help bees and other pollinators.

The wider countryside around protected sites has a crucial role in supporting communities of wild pollinators with features found in farmland – such as flower-rich margins and dense hedgerows which provide additional foraging and nesting resources.

If they are managed well, the areas surrounding protected sites can provide the potential for wild insect pollinators to increase their geographical range, ensuring they can move and adapt to the effects of climate change, and helping to provide more stability to populations.

EU nature laws

It’s clear that in Kent and Sussex the EU nature laws are protecting some crucial habitats for bees as well as being special places for people to enjoy.

And that’s true around the UK and across Europe. Last year an important report on the threat to rare bees in Europe found that some species are now only found in protected sites because they cannot survive in the surrounding intensively farmed countryside.

We must protect the nature laws to protect these places – and our rare bees – even after we've left the EU.

The British public are overwhelmingly in favour of keeping or strengthening EU rules that protect our natural environment – whichever way they voted in the EU referendum.

A YouGov survey for Friends of the Earth revealed that 83% of people want Britain to pass laws providing a higher (46%) or the same (37%) level of protection for wild areas and wildlife species than current EU laws.