The South West Bees Project focuses on bee conservation at a regional scale. The Project has assessed the status of 23 of our most threatened wild bees in the counties of Bristol and Avon, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.
Wild bees and other pollinators face many pressures in our modern environment, from habitat loss through development and changes in land management, to pesticides and climate change.
These pressures have caused national declines in our bee species, with concerns for the pollination of many wildflowers and food crops. Moreover, the fortunes of our bees vary locally, so national trends can sometimes mask steeper regional declines.
Why the South West?
The South West is of national importance for bees, with a warm climate and extensive habitats, including the iconic North Cornwall Coast, Lizard Peninsular, South Devon coast, Dartmoor, the Dorset heaths and chalk grasslands, the Forest of Dean, the Somerset Levels and Salisbury Plain.
The South West Bees Project reveals local trends in the species that live here, from nationally rare with strongholds in the region to species which are widespread in the UK but declining in the South West.
Over the past 50 years several bees have gone extinct in South West counties, with three completely lost from the region.
Broken-banded bumblebee (Bombus soroeensis) is not listed as a conservation priority in the UK, but has been lost from 5 counties in the South West © S Falk
Knowing bees better
The South West Bees Project aims to increase our understanding of each species- including their life-cycles and distribution- to inform local conservation efforts.
Surveys in 2014 have already shown positive results for some of Britain’s rarest bees, rediscovering species at historic sites and even finding new populations. For example, the Tormentil mining bee (Andrena tarsata) was recorded on Dartmoor for the first time in 40 years.
However these surveys have also shown that increased awareness and better management is needed to conserve some species, even on nature reserves.
The South West Bees Project works alongside our B-Lines projects, helping bees and other pollinating insects by connecting flower-rich habitats across the countryside. By linking these projects and working with other organisations and landowners, Buglife aims to create more suitable habitat and reverse the decline of endangered bees in the South West.