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A buzz in the air – 61 bee and wasp species recorded at Silverlake in Dorset

Seventeen new bee species and four new wasp species have been recorded at Silverlake in Dorset for the first time in a survey conducted by Bryan Edwards from the Dorset Environmental Records Centre (DERC). With the UK having seen a huge decline in its bee and wasp species in recent years, the survey highlights how effectively managing habitats helps grow these populations.

The site which was originally rich in aculeate fauna and home to rare and scarce species saw a decline due to the large-scale sand and gravel working in the 1960s and 70s. Since 2015, Habitat First Group, parent company of Silverlake, and their onsite ecologist Dr Phoebe Carter, have been carrying out wildlife audits and working to rebuild habitats to allow nesting sites for bees and wasps and encourage wildflowers to grow on the soil banks. They have also introduced bee bricks to all new build properties for solitary bees. As a result, Silverlake in Dorset once again provides prime habitats for these insects and is now home to 46 bee species and 15 wasp species including the Black & Yellow digger wasp, which was last recorded in the 1950s and the beautiful Jewel wasp first recorded in Dorset in 2016.

Bryan Edwards, Ecologist at DERC said:

“The habitats developing at Silverlake are proving very attractive to a wide range of bee and wasp species. Several heathland specialists have colonised Woodlark heath where the bare compacted soil provides ideal nesting sites for species such as the black and yellow digger-wasp Cerceris arenaria. The numerous soil banks in and around to the development are developing lovely wildflowers and are very important providing an important nectar resource through the spring and summer. Several scarce species were found in 2019 including colourful jewel wasp Hedychrum nobile.”

Dr Phoebe Carter, Chief Ecologist for Habitat First Group said:

“In Britain we have around 270 species of bee, just under 250 of which are solitary bees. These bees can be amazingly effective pollinators and as the name suggests, they tend not to live in colonies like bumblebees and honey bees. We should also value many of the wonderful range of wasps we have in the UK as they are also effective and important pollinators. Silverlake is hugely committed to providing and protecting the habitats that these species need and as such, now provides bee bricks in every newly built property for solitary bees.”

Bryan Edwards’ grant of £4,200 to survey Silverlake’s heathland for bees and wasps over a two-year period was donated in 2019 by the Conservation and Community Fund. The fund was set up by Dorset Council, Dorset Natural Environment Team and Habitat First Group who contribute at least £10,000 a year to the fund. The fund has also recently supplied a grant for a moth survey, which recorded 297 species of moth at Silverlake including one Red Data Book species, Dingy Mocha, which is also a Section 41 NERC Act species and a 14 Nationally Scarce species.

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Header image: Bryan Edwards.

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