My Dream Internship…

Wednesday 21st December 2022

…blog by Scarlett Weston, Buglife Assistant Conservation Officer

Wandering along the Cornish coastline, insect net in hand, I hardly notice the glittering sea stretching out to the horizon. I am transfixed by the rainbow diversity zipping between the wildflowers. Iridescent emerald Rose Chafers (Cetonia aurata) barrel into umbellifers where camouflaged Crab Spiders await their prey. Golden orange Marmalade Hoverflies (Episyrphus balteatus) feast hungrily from hawkbits after their long migration across the ocean. Then excitedly, I spot her, adorned in bright pink pollen, perched on lilac petals of the wiry Field Scabious (Succisa pratensis) flower – my first female Large Scabious Mining Bee (Andrena hattorfiana) of the season. A darting swipe of my net and I catch this special solitary bee for closer inspection, with her black onyx body, smoky wings, and bright orange tip of her tail, she is unmistakable. This rare and threatened bee is just one of the pollinators I get to help protect through my internship with Buglife.

Amongst the Wildflowers at Penhale © Will Hawkes
Amongst the Wildflowers at Penhale © Will Hawkes

My name is Scarlett Weston, and I am the Conservation Assistant for the North Cornwall B-Lines: Creating Pathways for Pollinators project. I have thoroughly enjoyed my varied role over this past year and wanted to share an insight into the exciting things I have been up to.

From creating a wildflower seed pack for local communities, which enabled hundreds of people to contribute to B-Lines: a network of insect superhighways. Passionately presenting project talks and sharing stories of the fascinating bees which inhabit Cornwall. To organising expert-led botanical and bee ID walks, training people on undertaking Flower-Insect-Timed counts, and designing a mini guide to identifying bees, all of which equipped local people with the skills to monitor their populations of pollinators.

However, the most rewarding aspect of my engagement work has been sharing my admiration of ‘the small things that run the planet’ with the next generation. Some of my favourite days have been educating children on the Large Scabious Mining Bee and empowering them to help save this threatened species through planting Field Scabious, the only flower the bee collects pollen from. I was delighted to develop an activity-filled education pack and accompanying resource pack for teachers, and proud to say it is becoming Buglife’s national school pack.

Busy Bees Planting Field Scabious © Tamara Carroll
Busy Bees Planting Field Scabious © Tamara Carroll

Then, there was the all-important habitat creation work. I assisted in an array of tasks: including surveys of our sites to identify which rare bees were present and whether any of their key food plants were missing. I feel lucky that Buglife invested in my training, allowing my inner botanist to bloom, and elevating my entomological skills. We harvested local provenance seed of the missing food plants, and later sowed these to enhance the sites. With thousands of plugs of Field Scabious waiting to be planted out, our creation of these wildflower-rich grasslands is still underway. In the meantime, we’ve been crafting bespoke management advice for local landowners so that the sites can continue to be perfect for pollinators far into the future.

I adored spending so much of my year out in the field, sighting these rare species, and ensuring their survival by planting ‘stepping-stones’ of wildflowers to connect their fragmented habitat. Having grown up in Cornwall, I am looking forward to revisiting these sites for years to come and watching the wildlife thrive thanks to work of North Cornwall B-Lines.

Find out more about the wonderful work our North Cornwall B-Lines project.