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Peter Harvey

Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum) © Peter Harvey

Shrill carder bee

Peter Harvey

Fast facts

  • Latin name: Bombus sylvarum
  • Notable feature: Makes a high pitched buzz when flying
  • Rarity in UK: Rare / Common
  • Where in the UK: Thames Gateway, Salisbury Plain and south Wales

The Shrill carder bumblebee Bombus sylvarum gets its name from the high-pitched buzz it makes during flight. Its distinctive colour (olive-green bands on its thorax with a black band running through between the base of the wings, and a reddish tail) marks it out from any other bumblebees.

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The Shrill carder bumblebee forages from a wide variety of plants, and is particularly fond of vetches, red clover, black horehound and red bartsia. It needs extensive flower-rich areas and suitable nesting sites of long tussocky grass to survive. The loss of these habitats has led to a steep decline in their numbers, and is now restricted to a few locations along the Thames Estuary east of London, south Essex and north Kent. Other known populations include the Salisbury Plain and the Somerset Levels, and parts of south Wales.

This rare and endangered species (protected on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan) is likely to continue to decline unless its flower-rich foraging habitats - often on brownfield sites - are protected.

Read more about the Shrill carder bee's stronghold in the Thames Gateway on Buglife's 'All of a Buzz in the Thames Gateway' project webpage.

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