Two very rare species of bee have been discovered on the new Bartinney Nature Reserve near Sennen in west Penwith, reports the Cornwall Wildlife Trust.
The tormentil nomad bee (Nomada robertjeotiana) is so rare that it is only currently known at one other site in the south west, near Davidstow.
This species uses the nests of another rare bee, the tormentil mining bee (Andrena tarsata), known to only three UK sites and also discovered at Bartinney. Both are moorland species that have undergone a dramatic decline since the 1970s.
Paddy Saunders, the invertebrate expert who discovered both species of bee during a survey for Natural England said: “The tormentil mining bee needs lots and lots of flowering tormentil very near to nest sites, from which to collect pollen to feed their larvae that live in small chambers slightly underground.
“It is unusual to find such big colonies of tormentil mining bee and the Trust’s Bartinney Nature Reserve, with its big drifts of flowering tormentil, is clearly an important site for them.
“The tormentil nomad bee is a ‘cuckoo’ bee that nips into the tomentil mining bee’s nest, where it lays an egg. Once hatched the nomad’s larvae eats all the pollen that the other bee has done all the hard work to collect!
“It needs a big tormentil mining bee colony to sustain a population of the nomad. The fact that Bartinney Nature Reserve supports both these rare bees is very significant.”
Liz Cox, Wild Penwith Project Manager for Cornwall Wildlife Trust said: “Open flower-rich habitats are vital for wildlife, including these bees, and this find highlights the importance of managing Penwith’s moors and downs to ensure such areas are kept open and not lost to invading scrub or bracken.”
“Bartinney Nature Reserve is one of the two reserves that the Trust recently bought thanks to public donations and funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and I am sure everyone involved will be thrilled to know that the site is already playing an important role in protecting Penwith’s wildlife!”
Andrew Whitehouse, South West Manager at Buglife said: “Both of these bees have been identified by our South West Bees Project as being in need of conservation action.
“We are encouraged to find that both species have been found at Bartinney, and we hope to work closely with Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Natural England to ensure that these nationally important populations thrive.”