Saturday, 21 June 2014

Wildlife Info Service: top species questions for June

Emily Nobbs, Wildlife Information Service

The species most asked about this month on the Wildlife Information Service is bee orchids followed by bees and bee nests!

Bee orchids

Bee orchid, photo by Lucy Denman
The weather this spring seems to have brought about a boom in bee orchid numbers.

Many of you have been spotting them on the edges of farmland, brownfield or industrial sites, a frequently asked question being are they protected? Unfortunately although protected when growing in the wild under the Section 13 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it illegal to up-root, when they are growing on private land the landowner can do as he or she wishes; and the only thing you can do as somebody passionate about these beautiful orchids is to educate the landowner on their importance, and how the site can be managed to benefit them.

If growing on council land you could contact them and ask them if they could not mow the area until the end of July so that they have a chance to seed, if some small stakes could be put up around it, this will also help to protect them, and make people aware they are there.

Top facts about bee orchids
  1. Bee orchids typically grow on dry, grassy slopes where the soil is chalky or sandy and there aren’t many nutrients. You tend to see them in urban areas, predominantly on roadsides and old industrial sites
  2. Bee orchids take 5-8 years to develop from seed to flower. This development depends on an association between the orchid and fungi in the soil.
  3. Bee orchids produce a scent which is similar to the pheromones produce a scent which is similar to the pheromones produced by certain female bees to attract a mate. Male bees attracted by the scent then attempt to mate with the bee orchid flower, transfer pollen and fertise the bee orchids. However in England bee orchids appear to be self-pollinated.
  4. Bee orchids are notoriously unprediatble, appearing for a few years at a site in good numbers and then completely vanishing.
  5. The best time to look for bee orchids is june and early july. Nature reserves where you can see them include NWT Narborough Railway Line and NWT Holme Dunes reserve. On coastal dunes such as Holkham and Burnham Overy.
  6.   Despite their beauty they are often thought of as difficult to spot

Bees and bee nests
Bumblebees are very important pollinators for our crops and flowers, bio-diverse margins of farmlands being an important food source for bees pollinating crop.

Common bumblebees in England:
  • ·         Buff-tailed bumblebee  Bombus terrestris
  • ·         White- tailed bumblebee  Bombus lucorum
  • ·         Garden bumblebee  Bombus hortorum
  • ·         Early bumblebee  Bombus pratorum
  • ·         Common carder bee  Bombus pascuorum
  • ·         Red-tailed bumblebee  Bombus lapidaries
  • ·         Tree bumblebee  Bombus hypnorum
  • ·         Heath bumblebee  Bombus jonellus
Bees are non-aggressive and will only sting if they are threatened or disturbed, if not they will go about their day doing a great job of pollinating and making honey.

Top facts about bees
Honey bee, photo by Peter Dent
  1. Male bees do sting
  2.  Tree bumblebee is the newest bee in the Uk, This species was first found in the UK in 2001
  3. Sussex university is currently decoding the honey bee waggle dances to determine the movement of honey bees in apple orchards in order to understand apple pollination better. This project is part of Nick Balfour's PhD on "Helping Bees and Agricultural Pollination in Farm Land" which is part of the "Sussex Plan for Honey Bee Health & Well Being"
  4. Only honey bees swarm
  5.  To raise the temperature of the flight muscles high enough to enable flight the bumblebee shivers, rather the same way we do when we are cold. This can easily be seen in a grounded bee as her abdomen will pump to ventilate the flight muscles.
For more information about bees and bee nests please visit the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust website:  

Bee nests
It is important to know that bees rarely nest in the same place, so if you have them in your garden this year, it is unlikely you will have them the following year. We understand that sometimes the positioning of bee’s nests can be awkward and as a last resort you or a local bee expert may have to move the nest to another location. To find out more about how to move a bee nest please check out the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust’s website:

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