Rare Bumblebees found at Dow Corning’s Cadoxton Ponds Nature Reserve

For the past few years the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) has been managing Dow Corning’s Cadoxton Ponds Nature Reserve for in Barry. As part of the management, WTSWW has been carrying out a range of species surveys including birds, butterflies, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. These surveys have produced an already impressive species list for the site with a number of scarce or rare species having been recorded, including bittern, harvest mice and small blue butterflies.

Shrill carder bee by Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Shrill carder bee by Bumblebee Conservation Trust

The latest exciting discovery at the reserve was found during a bumblebee survey with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Conservation Officer. Bumblebees provide not only an endearing and familiar sound of summer but also a vital role in pollination of plants such as peas and raspberries. Unfortunately most of the UK’s 25 species are in decline due to a decrease in flowering plants in the countryside leading to a lack of the pollen and nectar that they need to survive.

Red bartsia

Red bartsia

Cadoxton Ponds has a wide range of different flowering plants which provide nectar to a variety of insects throughout the spring and summer. One of these plants, Red Bartsia, is a particular favourite of the Shrill Carder Bee Bombus sylvarum which is one of the UK’s rarest bumblebee species. The Shrill Carder Bee is found only in a few locations in south Wales and southern England and was the target of the survey at the beginning of August.

We had surveyed almost the entire site, finding 5 common bumblebee species, before we eventually found a likely-looking patch of Red Bartsia. After a couple of minutes searching Sinead managed to carefully catch a smallish sandy-coloured bumblebee which on close inspection turned out to be a Shrill Carder Bee – an exciting result and an important addition to the known range of this rare species!

Along with the Shrill Carder Bee we also found good numbers of another uncommon species; the Brown-banded Carder Bee Bombus humilis. Both of these species have a Biodiversity Action Plan meaning that they are priorities for conservation in the UK, so it is very exciting to have found both at this site.

These discoveries will also help us target our management to decrease some of the thick grassland to allow flowers such as Red Bartsia to flourish more widely.

Why not help encourage bees in your garden by planning your nectar garden for next year, we are coming to the time of year for planting those early flowering bulbs. Crucially bees and other pollinating insects need plants to be flowering early and late in the year, our guide helps you plan a fantastic garden for bees, hoverflies, moths and butterflies.