LOOE, Cornwall, UK 21 January 2019: A project to conserve populations of one of Britain’s rarest bees in Cornwall, a county that forms the south-west tip of England, has been able to achieve considerable success over the last year, thanks to support provided by the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.
The project, being run by local environmental consultancy Kernow Ecology, is focused on the Long-horned Bee, Eucera longicornis, a species which was once widespread and locally common in Southern England, but has suffered a serious decline. Less than thirty sites for the species are still known. A survey in 2015 and 2016 showed that six of these were in Cornwall, with the species having disappeared from 18 other sites in the county where it was once known. Seven of those sites have lost the species since 2000.
“Projects like Kernow Ecology’s work on the Long-horned Mining Bee demonstrate the wide-ranging nature of threats to the world’s biodiversity,” Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, the Managing Director of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund told Wam.
“The threats are worldwide, and do not just involve larger and better-known species of animals and plants. The fund’s objectives include the raising of the importance of individual species in the broader debate about conservation, through the provision of small targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives. This work in Cornwall provides an excellent example of how a small grant can make a real difference.”
Range of Threats
Mainly located along the coast, the Cornish populations of Long-horned Bees have been depleted by a range of threats. These include the disappearance of their preferred food-plants from the legume (pea) family, through the abandonment of cliff-top grazing and because of intensive agriculture as well as coastal erosion, which has removed nesting sites.
Following completion of a 2017 study, Kernow Ecology, named after the county’s name in the now nearly-extinct Cornish language, was given a grant by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund to support a conservation campaign that included several programmes designed to preserve the Long-horned Bee population. These included working with local landowners to protect suitable habitats, such as preventing grazing by livestock or cutting of plants during the summer nesting period for the bees, and collaborating with local schools. The plan also includes further survey and monitoring work to try to identify further sites and the most suitable conservation actions for this bee.
Working with keen community volunteers, Paddy Saunders of Kernow Ecology has continued to monitor known bee colonies and has also carried out further survey work, with a new breeding site for the Long-horned Bee being discovered during 2018. He is also working with local landowners to promote conservation-friendly practices, as well as raising legume (pea) plants that can be planted on key sites to increase food resources for the bees.
Peas 4 Bees
With support from Kernow Ecology, children from one local primary school, Trythall Community School, have also launched a special Peas 4 Bees campaign, collecting thousands of seeds from suitable species of plants from the pea family and growing hundreds of plants. The school received a special ‘Pollinator Champion Award’ during 2018 from Britain’s Biosecurity Minister, Lord Gardiner, for its contribution to bee conservation.
Looking ahead to 2019, Kernow Ecology plan to continue their survey work as well as working with landowners to develop more areas with suitable plants and carrying out more survey and monitoring work. This will include further efforts to try to identify populations of another species that is currently believed to be extinct in Cornwall, the Six-banded Nomad Bee, Nomada sexifaciata, a parasite on the Long-horned Bee, which has not been seen in the county for over 100 years. It is currently known from only one location in Britain, in the adjacent county of Devon.
“The grant supplied by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund to our project to conserve Cornwall’s endangered Long-horned Mining Bees has been of enormous help,” Paddy Saunders told the Emirates News Agency, WAM.
“What has been really excellent about the grant has been the flexible terms that have allowed me to undertake practical actions with local communities and individuals who are concerned about threats to our wildlife, as well as to undertake more surveys and monitoring. The support from the Fund has also enabled me to develop partnerships with landowners and other organisations, as well as to help promote awareness within the community, as demonstrated by the active involvement of children from Trythall School,” Saunders added.
The Cornwall Long-horned Bee project is also supported by the Lindsay Foundation, a British charity that provides grants for a variety of projects, including the environment and conservation.