By Helen Pitman, GRASS Member
Bees have such an important role in keeping our planet healthy but unfortunately bee populations across the world are declining. Margate’s chalk soils and cliffs provide the perfect habitat for bees and one of the UK’s rarest bees, the long-horned bee, has been spotted here in the last few years.
Long-horned bees, named because the males have extraordinarily long antennae, start to emerge from hibernation at the beginning of the summer. They are an impressive bee and can be easily recognised by anyone new to bee-spotting around Foreness Point.
Usually though, as you wander along the coast in spring and summer, you’ll spot some of our more common bees, the red-tailed and white-tailed bumblebees. These bees, classed as members of the ‘Big 7’ because they are widespread and abundant, can often be found bumbling around feeding on flowering plants.
The queens emerge from hibernation in spring in search of the perfect nesting site to lay her first eggs. Worker bees appear from early summer and then bee habitat becomes busier and busier until early autumn when queen heads back into hibernation.
Bees have an important economic as well as ecological role especially in Kent, the garden of England, with its long history of fruit production. Our farmers rely heavily on the free pollination services provided by bees, which is why our coastal bees are so important.
The single biggest factor in the decline of our native bumblebees has been loss of habitat. Linking newly rewilded areas to existing areas, like Foreness Point, can provide a lifeline for bees and increasing habitat for them will help increase dwindling populations.
To learn more about bees and how you can help them visit bumblebeeconservation.org