Council’s new wildflower approach is a real buzz for rare bees

A rare bumblebee has returned to Lewes after an absence of more than 50 years thanks to grounds maintenance changes at the town’s cemetery.

The brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) has declined sharply in the UK in recent years due to loss of habitat and is now only usually found on grassland such as the South Downs where the plants it relies on for pollen and nectar still flourish.

Alongside this exceptional sighting at Lewes Cemetery is the discovery of another rarity – the Long-Horned Nomad Bee (Nomada hirtipes).

This species has never been spotted in Lewes and it is remarkable because, unlike most other bees, it does not collect pollen for its larvae but instead takes over the nests of other bees.

Councillor Matthew Bird, the Co-operative Alliance’s Cabinet member for Sustainability at Lewes District Council, said: “These two rare species are a resounding endorsement of our new approach at the cemetery, leaving wildflowers to grow throughout the spring and summer so that bees have access to the pollen and nectar they need to thrive in the heart of the town.

“I am delighted we are bringing more nature, insects and biodiversity to our green spaces in Lewes district, especially given the global ecological emergency and dramatic reduction in pollinators.”

The council has also made Lewes Cemetery in Rotten Row a pesticide-free site, meaning that no chemicals are used to control weeds and unwanted plants, giving the insect and wildlife population a much better chance to thrive.

With photo of a brown-banded carder bee by Ray Reeves courtesy of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.