Ardeer Peninsula – Scotland’s bee haven

Ardeer Peninsula - Southern Dune Peaks © Iain Hamlin

The Ardeer Peninsula in Ayrshire, is a unique mosaic of dune habitats, grassland, woodlands, scrub and wetlands, shaped by its industrial past. But it is under threat from a multitude of development proposals.


UPDATE: August 2022 – NatureScot have started the process of investigating the SSSI designation

The Ardeer Peninsula is a large sand spit that is part of the Garnock Estuary on the coast of the Firth of Clyde. It supports a complex mosaic of coastal habitats including dunes and wetlands, with brownfield features as a result of its history as an important explosives manufacturing site. 40 years following its closure, the Ardeer Peninsula is subject to sand quarrying in places, some buildings have been removed and areas decontaminated, but otherwise the site has matured into a haven for wildlife, supporting species found nowhere else in Scotland.

Despite never being subject to any formal survey, over 1,000 invertebrate species have been recorded across the Garnock Estuary. It has even been touted as Scotland’s best site for bees – including the Northern Colletes Bee (Colletes floralis) and Northern Mining Bee (Andrena ruficrus), both included on the Scottish Biodiversity List.

Northern Colletes (Colletes floralis) © Steven Falk

The site is home to over 95 invertebrate species of conservation concern, including some found nowhere else in Scotland. This includes species as diverse as the Broom-tip Moth (Chesias rufata), Grayling Butterfly (Hipparchia Semele) and Fan-bristled Robberfly (Dysmachus trigonus) which are included on the Scottish Biodiversity List, and the Nationally Scarce Dune Wolf Spider (Xerolycosa miniata) and Sheep’s-bit Hoverfly (Eumerus sabulonum).

The Garnock Estuary’s extensive mosaic of high-quality habitats also support one of the best breeding bird assemblages on the lower Clyde coast, and populations of 46 flowering plants of conservation concern, including endemic sub-species and those for which Scotland has an international responsibility.

However, this rich diversity of life is under-threat from a Special Development Order dating back to 1953. This means that planning permission is not required for development and activities which would require consent almost anywhere else in Scotland.

Garnock East Pond © Iain Hamlin

The site is already suffering from ongoing sand extraction which is damaging its unique dune habitats. But with other proposals for large and potentially damaging developments including housing,  golf courses, and even a nuclear fusion plant, time is running out to save one of Scotland’s most fascinating wildlife sites.

Buglife Scotland is part of a coalition calling on NatureScot, the public body responsible for Scotland’s natural heritage, to recognise the national importance of the entire Garnock Estuary and designate it as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Together with the Ardeer Action Group, Scottish Wildlife Trust, RSPB Scotland, Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, we produced a ‘Rationale for the SSSI designation of the Garnock Estuary’ which makes a case for the site’s urgent protection.

Grayling Butterfly (Hipparchia semele) © Iain H Leach