In the village of Penparcau . . .

By Chloe Griffiths, a keen BeeWalker in west Wales who has worked with her local community to improve bumblebee recording data and local pollinator habitat.

“In our village of Penparcau on the west coast of Wales, volunteers have been taking part in the BeeWalk survey for three years. Volunteers who wished to do something to help our bees, received training from staff at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and now carry out this BeeWalk on a hill in our area called Pen Dinas. The gorse-covered Iron-age hillfort, with a Bronze-age burial mound at the peak, is a local hotspot for bumblebees, and they can often be found nectaring on a selection of flowers from willow to bramble. The BeeWalk has become a popular survey with local people of all ages, including one baby who was enchanted to hold a pot with a bumblebee in it and watch it clambering about!

One of our key aims as a local wildlife-recording group, is to create the data locally to compare with the national picture on how our wildlife is doing. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust gave a summary on how bumblebees were doing in the first half of 2018 in their BeeWalk Annual Report 2018.

“The late, wet spring saw queen bumblebees emerging late, with four of the seven common species emerging in late March and three of the common species emerging in early April. This is in contrast to the early emergence of all seven common species in March of 2017.”  (Summer update: BeeWalk July 2018)

Comparing this with our data from Penparcau, we can see that all but two of our seven bumblebees (Early, Garden, Common carder bee, Red-tailed and White-tailed) emerged in mid-April 2018, with only Tree and Buff-tailed bumblebees emerging in March (on the 20th).  We are pleased to report a maximum count of 109 bumblebees of four species on the 19th of July 2018.

1st date seen 2017 1st date seen 2018 + or – variation from 2017
Buff-tailed 27 March 20 March -7 days
Red-tailed 5 April 5 April 0
Early 7 April 11 April +4 days
Tree 6 April 20 March -17 days
Garden 26 April 16 April -10 days
Common Carder 26 April 16 April -10 days
White-tailed 6 June 16 April -51 days

The above table shows the emergence dates recorded for seven bumblebee species in Penparcau in 2017 and 2018, with the number of days they emerged earlier or later in 2018 than in 2017.

Our local species seem to follow a different pattern to that happening at a national level. We can establish from the data , in 2018 all but two species actually emerged earlier than in 2017!  As usual we need to say that our results are based on too small a sample size to be significant, as we can’t hope to equal the recording power across the whole of the UK, but it is interesting at a local level to see the large difference between when the White-tailed bumblebee emerged in 2017 on 6th June, and when it was first observed in 2018, 51 days earlier on the 16th April.  We can compare this considerable variation with the Red-tailed bumblebee’s emergence date, which was exactly the same in both years.

We are grateful to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust who worked in partnership with our project and with local volunteers to fund and plant a “bee-friendly” garden next to the Penparcau Community Forum’s building, and we have already begun surveying this area for bees as the garden develops. Thanks also go to the local community who have kindly provided extra pollinator-friendly plants to add to its appeal, and to Ceredigion County Council who supplied nine fruit trees for a new orchard next to the bee garden, as well as 482 wild flower plug plants to enhance the bank area nearby! This kind of hands on habitat improvement with 21 local volunteers, working on an area which used to be a toilet block is vital for creating better habitat for our bees.

We look forward to the next season of BeeWalking in 2019!”

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