Bee boost at Lytes Cary Manor

shrill carder bee on flower

Lytes Cary Manor has been designated as one of only two exemplary sites in England for the endangered Shrill carder bee.

The little bumblebee with a big voice (it is named for its high-pitched buzz) is a priority species for conservation in England and Wales following significant declines since the 1950s. It is now nationally scarce, with populations restricted to five isolated locations in southern England and south Wales. 

Like many of our bumblebees, numbers suffered due to the huge losses of flower-rich habitats since the end of the second world war. So the team came together at Lytes to improve nest sites and food sources for this straw-coloured bumblebee with its distinctive black stripes.

Mark Musgrave, Lead Ranger at Lytes Cary Manor, says: “The work we did included propagating and planting out white dead nettle and comfrey – important nectar sources for adult bees. Our volunteers planted hundreds of plugs, as well as a mixture of wildflowers from seed including yellow rattle and black knapweed, which will act as a wider source of nectar and pollen for foraging worker bees.

“We are looking at places where we can plant more comfrey, and will be protecting key sites with flowers known to be good for the bees.”

The award from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Buglife recognises almost a decade of work from volunteers, staff and farm tenants. 

Sinead Lynch, Conservation Manager at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, says: “With the National Trust being one of the largest landowners of flower-rich grasslands, its involvement is crucial for the conservation and recovery of the species.

“Choosing champion sites in our ‘Back from the brink Shrill carder bee recovery project’ helps to highlight and celebrate where the species is doing well and gives us great case studies to help people to learn about positive management, which in turn helps to secure its long-term future.”

The charismatic Shrill carder bee is part of our natural heritage and along with other species provides crucial pollination for crops that were conservatively valued at £430M by the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. 

In the past 70 years, 97 per cent of flower-rich grasslands have been lost, including the wildlife, culture and history they sustained. Since 2015, the National Trust has focused on restoring these habitats, which are so crucial for pollinators and wildlife. 

To date the conservation charity has created over 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) of flower-rich grasslands as part of its strategy to reverse the fragmentation of wildlife-rich habitat and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The other site where the bee is doing well is the RSPB’s Rainham Marshes site in Essex.