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61 bee and wasp species recorded at Silverlake, Dorset

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In 2019, Bryan Edwards of Dorset Environmental Records Centre (DERC) applied to Silverlake’s Conservation and Community Fund for money to survey for heathland bees and wasps across Silverlake over two years. The Conservation and Community Fund provided a grant of c. £4,000 and as a result of the first year of this work, 46 bee species and 15 wasp species have been recorded at Silverlake to date.

The reasoning behind his wish to survey was:

“Prior to the large-scale sand and gravel working in the 1960s and 70s, West Knighton Heath, Empool Heath and Outer Heath had a very rich aculeate fauna with many rare and scarce species present. Over the last 50 years habitat fragmentation and agricultural intensification has led to a general decline of bees and wasps and many other invertebrates in the landscape. Even within the remaining protected sites there have been declines due to the loss of bare ground and open habitats that are required for nesting.”

17 of the bees and 4 of the wasps recorded were new records for the area. Bryan recorded the Black & Yellow digger wasp, which was last recorded in the 1950s and the beautiful jewel wasp first recorded in Dorset in 2016. Silverlake’s heathlands (especially the trackways), banks and road verges are prime habitats for these bees and wasps.

The UK has over 250 species of bee alone, many of which are threatened by decline or extinction.

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 the development are developing lovely wildflowers and are very important in providing a 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, the parent company of Silverlake 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.”

Silverlake’s Conservation and Community Fund has also recently provided 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.

Photo credit: Bryan Edwards

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