A spotlight on the special pollinators of the Hartland Coast

Alex Worsley, West Country Buzz Conservation Officer provides an overview of why the Hartland peninsula is such an important area for wildlife including some of our rare bumblebee species.

The Hartland peninsula and its dramatic coastlines are the perfect haven for wildlife, with captivating species such as Peregrine falcons and Kestrel often seen nesting on the cliffs which look out over Lundy and the Atlantic Ocean. However, a closer look can reveal many smaller but no less fascinating animal life in the form of invertebrates. Hartland is an important locality for a number of rare pollinating insects. The Sheep’s-bit hoverfly (Eumerus sabulonum) makes its home here, a species graded as Nationally Scarce and found from very few coastal localities in Devon. Hartland Point is also perhaps the most important UK site for the Scarce blackneck moth (Lygephila craccae), also a very rare species with this coastline being a national stronghold. This species is listed as one of Devon’s Special Species – species which Devon has a particular responsibility for. The area also supports good numbers of the charismatic and fluffy looking Western beefly (Bombylius canescens), relatively common in Devon, but increasingly rare the further east you travel in the U.K.

Yet it is the Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis), also listed as a Devon Special Species, that is most relevant to the West Country Buzz project. This is a bumblebee species in serious decline and in Devon now found only from the North Devon coast, with the population at Hartland believed to be under threat. This species has only been seen twice in the area in the latter half of this decade and it is imperative that work is carried out to prevent a local extinction. There are many ways the local community can help out one of our rarest bumblebee species.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust runs a national monitoring programme known as BeeWalk, which aims to track bumblebee populations throughout the country. Hartland has some very dedicated BeeWalkers but there is always room for more! Having a better knowledge of exactly where the bumblebees such as the Brown-banded carder bee are found enables the project to target many of our habitat improvement works in to areas where they are most needed. Further BeeWalk information can be found here www.beewalk.org.uk/.

Additionally, planting bee friendly flowers will encourage a whole variety of pollinating insects, both rare and common – it can be amazing to see what turns up unexpectedly in even the smallest of gardens! Take a look at the Bee kind page on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s website for inspiration for next year’s planting beekind.bumblebeeconservation.org/. Many native wildflowers can be easily grown in lawns and borders, and autumn is the perfect time to sow from seed.

The West Country Buzz project often runs training courses for those wanting to learn more about identifying bumblebee species (online included). We also work closely with landowners and provide free no obligation advice on supporting bumblebees. For further information please contact wcb@bumblebeeconservation.org

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