Heart of Kent

PUBLISHED: 15:40 13 August 2016 | UPDATED: 15:15 15 August 2016

Heart of Kent

Heart of Kent

Archant

In our eighth visit to the centre of our county in International Map Year, we look at the activity and variety of bumblebees found at our chosen site. Words by: Tomas Vujakovic and Peter Vujakovic. Picture by: Manu Palomeque

According to Professor Dave Goulson, founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, more bumblebee species are to be found in Kent than anywhere else in the Britain; 22 of 27 species.

There is, however, a hole in the heart of Kent, with only a single bumblebee species, the ‘common carder’ (Bombus pascuorum), officially recorded there according to Nikki Gammon and Geoff Allen’s excellent book The Bumblebees of Kent (Kent Field Club). But it is nothing to be concerned about. It is simply a lack of information.

Each dot on an animal or plant distribution map simply represents one or more records. A lack of records for the Heart of Kent is not a sign that the bees are not found there, but merely that no one has yet entered an official record for the site. Many distribution maps are as much a record of where surveyors have been active as the actual distribution of the species; this does not mean the maps are not useful, but that they can only provide generalised evidence of where you might expect to find a particular species.

For rare species, they provide evidence of the sort of places where you might look for them. This month’s map, taken from Nikki and Geoff’s book, shows the distribution of B. terrestris, the buff-tailed bumblebee, one of our more common bees. We observed this beautiful bee, despite its absence on the map, on two visits to the heart of Kent in April and June.

Despite the lack of records for the heart of Kent and the fact that the site is beside a cereal field – not a land use that is at all attractive to bees – we observed several species of bumbles during April. The site is backed by a railway 
embankment, which provides some wild resources for bees and other pollinators.

A major attraction was an early flowering willow tree and some scattered white dead nettles in the field edge. As well as the common carder, we observed the buff-tailed, red-tailed, early, garden and tree bumblebees. In June a wider range of plants was drawing bees to the site, including the green alkanet, bittersweet, hawthorn, and our wonderful dog rose.

In addition to the bumblebees listed above, we also observed two ‘cuckoo’ bumblebees, the vestal and hill cuckoo. Bumblebees, like honey-bees, are social, and cuckoo queens (a social parasite) take advantage of this by ejecting or killing the resident queen and ‘hijacking’ the colony to raise their own young. In evolutionary terms this is a very sensible strategy; putting another species to work for your own benefit!

Bumblebees are only a small group of all the British bees, which number well over 270 species. Many are overlooked, and include small solitary bees, several seen at the heart of Kent, for example the exquisite tawny mining (Andrena fulva).

We have focused on bumblebees, because bees and other insects are attracted to flowers, which make them an easy target for the beginner keen to develop an interest in local wildlife. Find a flower-rich area of chalk downland, pasture, or coastal dunes or simply sit in your garden and these wonderful insects will come to you.

Looking for bees is not only a summer activity; some are now active into the winter where garden flowers allow. This autumn check out any ivy growing on walls or trees; this late flowering plant is a magnet for pollinators, including the ivy bee (Colletes hederae), which was only recorded in the Britain in 2001 and has been spreading into Kent from the coast.

With thanks to ...

Tomas Vujakovic, is President of the FXU Bee Society (Exeter and Falmouth Universities, Penryn). He is currently reading for a degree in Zoology. Kent has been his home since 2007.

Peter Vujakovic, is Professor of Geography at Canterbury Christ Church University. He lectures in biogeography.

w

More from Out & About

Thu, 11:41

Setting off from the beach at St Margaret’s, prepare to be amazed at the feast of delights that will unfold before you as you meander along across cliff tops

Read more
April 2018
Wed, 17:20

A walk at one of Kent’s National Trust sites connects you with our county’s rich history and heritage while also providing you with some breathtaking scenery. Here are ten great routes you should try

Read more
Friday, January 8, 2021

Kent has many castles and stately homes, but we have hand selected the ten best castles in Kent for you to visit

Read more
Thursday, January 7, 2021

The elusive snowdrop can be hard to find and before you know it, they’re gone again, so we saved you the trouble and found some beautiful spots in Kent to go for a walk among the snowdrops

Read more
Monday, December 21, 2020

So you think you know your county? Take our New Year quiz and put that local knowledge to the test | Words: Adam Jacot de Boinod

Read more
Friday, December 18, 2020

Is life still feeling a bit overwhelming? Head for any of these 10 peaceful spots in Kent to help you find that much-needed bubble of calm | Words: Holly Louise Eells

Read more
Friday, December 18, 2020

From rambles through the Kent Downs to pretty village walks and urban strolls, this guide to some of Kent’s prettiest walking routes is essential for the intrepid adventurer

Read more
Friday, December 18, 2020

Here are five of the best spots in Kent for a stroll by coast, canal and river

Read more
Friday, December 18, 2020

We have selected 12 of the grandest historic stately homes with stunning gardens in Kent to visit

Read more
Friday, December 18, 2020

Kent is not only home to many stunning beaches but also has some of the safest and cleanest in the country, many with prestigious Blue Flag status

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Latest Competitions & Offers



Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Latest from the Kent Life