Lost bumblebee rediscovered on South Devon coast

Tuesday 27th December 2022

One of the UK’s most-threatened bumblebees the Brown-banded Carder Bee (Bombus humilis), has been rediscovered at Prawle Point on the South Devon coast.  This bee was once thought extinct in Devon, but in recent years has been rediscovered in the north of the county, and has now been found on the south coast. Invertebrate conservation charity Buglife and South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are thrilled to announce this recent discovery as part of the Life on the Edge project.

Hayley Herridge, Life on the Edge Conservation Officer says “This recent discovery as part of a wider rare invertebrate survey on the South Devon coast, is our headline news of the summer! We are delighted that a species lost, has been rediscovered at Prawle Point for the first time since 1978. Prawle Point is considered the most important location for rare invertebrates in our project area and this highlights how special it is.”

The Brown-banded Carder Bee is an all-ginger bumblebee species, that requires open flower-rich grasslands where wildflowers such as clovers, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and knapweeds are plentiful. It has declined due to the loss of this habitat, including along the South Devon coast, where wildflower-rich grasslands are now few and far between. This new record signifies the need for a connected network of flower-rich insect super-highways or B-Lines, across our landscape so species can not only survive, but thrive.

The Life on the Edge project is a multi-partner project that aims to restore populations of some of the UK’s rarest invertebrates and plants living along the South Devon coast between Berry Head and Wembury; including the last known colony of the Six-banded Nomad Bee (Nomada sexfasciata).  The project will also enable the recovery of over 30 other threatened invertebrates, including the Long-horned Bee (Eucera longicornis), Mediterranean Oil Beetle (Meloe mediterraneus), and Moon Spider (Callilepis nocturna) and 30 rare or declining plant species, including Autumn Squill (Scilla autuminalis), Slender-fruited Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus angustissimus) and Goldilocks Aster (Aster linosyris).

The Brown-banded Carder Bee was identified as part of a wider survey effort to better understand these special species to inform future nature friendly farming practices and positive land management change along the coast. The project will work with farmers and landowners, and local communities to provide opportunities for people of all ages to engage with nature, discover more about these rare and endangered invertebrates and play a crucial role in this large-scale nature recovery project.

Rob Skinner, Life on The Edge Project Manager at the South Devon AONB Unit said “This is a fantastic and highly important find. It shows that our Life on the Edge project is already delivering, boosting our knowledge of these special insects, we look forward to more finds as the project develops.”

The project is currently in its development phase and has been kindly funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Devon Environment Foundation and Milkywire. If successful in securing its second round of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project will run from April 2024 until 2029. If you would like to find out more about the project, please go to the South Devon AONB website Life on The Edge