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Sea aster mining bee

The Sea aster mining bee (Colletes halophilus) is a rare bee restricted to the margins of salt marshes in East Anglia and the Thames Estuary, with occasional populations along the south and east coasts. The UK supports nationally important populations, with the bee restricted globally to the North Sea coastline.

The bee is named after its preferred food source, Sea aster (Aster tripolium), which flowers at the same time as the bee’s August emergence when they collect pollen and nectar for their young. However, climate change and sea level rise are causing their saltmarsh habitats to be lost, with further impact on the bee from development pressure in their Thames Estuary populations.

Sea aster mining bee (Colletes halophilus) (c) Steven Falk

Habitat loss has led to mitigation for various invertebrates, creating features such as beetle bunds, scrapes and bee banks, while unplanned opportunities can be created in rock piles, sand pits, road embankments and sea walls.

This project sought to understand the specific habitat requirements of the Sea aster mining bee. The project confirmed that the bee will exploit both natural and man-made habitats, such as managed grasslands and sand piles, as long as two key resources are present, forage and suitable nesting sites. This is good news as it means that simple actions to provide nesting habitat for this species in coastal areas that have an abundance of Sea aster may increase opportunities for the species. This also means that new development projects in the Thames Estuary could include invertebrate nesting areas for this and many other species, as part of mitigation packages to reduce the negative impacts of new developments. This is particularly important at a time when so many species are being lost.

This project was supported with funding from the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species through their invertebrate internships, and conducted in partnership with Buglife, with additional help from Writtle College.