Image above by Jurgen Mangelsdorf
Black mining bee Andrena pilipes - Nationally scarce

The national strongholds for this solitary mining bee are Devon, Cornwall and the Thames Estuary. It is associated with coastal locations such as landslips, rough cliff tops, soft rock cliffs and sand dunes. They nest in burrows in the ground, requiring light sandy soils in warm, sunny areas. It is one of two very similar sibling species, which are difficult to distinguish between. However, A. pilipes is probably the main one in Devon. Although always few in numbers, the species remains fairly easily found at most of its known sites, so its range and abundance in the county are probably stable. However, systematic survey and monitoring are required to confirm this. It is at risk from coastal development, the stabilisation of soft rock cliffs and landslips, and from scrub invasion of its coastal habitats.

Map to show the Devon distribution of this species

Perkins' mining bee Andrena rosae - Nationally rare

A rare and declining bee, with recent records confined to a few sites in Cornwall, Devon, Kent and Oxfordshire. In Devon it is known from coastal slopes and cliffs with flower-rich grassland or heathland and patches of scrub (e.g. Hartland Quay) and from Dartmoor moorland. The last county record may have been made at Challacombe, west Exmoor, in 2009. It has now probably disappeared from Dartmoor, although it could still survive in areas where there is wild angelica for the summer brood. The reasons the species' decline are unknown, but may be linked to climate change or competition from other closely related bee species which are increasing. Action is required to determine the current status of the species in Devon.

Further information can be found here

Image above by Martin Harvey

Brown-banded carder-bee Bombus humilis - Nationally scarce

Now rare, this bumblebee has undergone a major decline nationally. Braunton Burrows is an important site for it, and together with the nearby airfield at RMB Chivenor also for the Moss Carder Bee B. muscuorum, another nationally threatened and declining bumblebee. Both species are the focus of targeted conservation action by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust along the north Devon coast. The project aims to reinstate suitable habitat for these and other pollinator species as part of a Nature Recovery Network. The Brown-banded Carder Bee is currently frequent and widespread across Braunton Burrows. In 2018 a worker was found at Hartland Quay, but efforts to find further individuals in 2019 were unsuccessful. In 2019 the bee was recorded at Woolacombe. Both bumblebees are threatened through continued loss and fragmentation of flower-rich habitat, largely through agricultural intensification: recovery measures at a landscape level are required to ensure their long-term survival. Current plans to remove large areas of scrub at Braunton Burrows under the Dynamic Dunescapes project should benefit the bees.

Map to show the Devon distribution of this species

Image above by John Walters
Mountain bumblebee Bombus monticola - Nationally scarce

Nationally declining, this bumblebee is now largely restricted in England to Shropshire and Devon, with small numbers in Wales: populations in Scotland remain healthy. In Devon the bee occurs on both Exmoor and Dartmoor, inhabiting moorland areas of wet and dry heathland and grassland. In spring and early summer, it is most often associated with willows and bilberry. As far as is known, populations are stable within the county, but further survey is required to confirm this. As a boreo-alpine species, it may be threatened by climate change. Other threats probably include both high levels of grazing leading to a lack of flowers, and land abandonment leading to dense scrub and woodland cover.

Map to show the Devon distribution of this species

Image above by John Walters
Long-horned bee Eucera longicornis - Nationally scarce

An uncommon bee with important populations in Devon and Cornwall. It is the host of another Devon Special Species, the very rare and critically endangered Six-banded Nomad Bee Nomada sexfasciata - now known only from the coastline at Prawle in south Devon where a strong population of the Long-horned Bee persists. There are occasional recent records of the Long-horned Bee elsewhere in Devon, for example at Dawlish Warren, but the bee usually occurs on soft coastal cliffs. It is declining in Cornwall, where recent research shows it has a strong preference for vetches as a food source. Nationally, however, it is currently experiencing a range expansion. Its status in Devon is unclear. The best approach to conserving the bee is likely to be taking action to increase the quality and quantity of flowers near nesting sites. Grazing or cutting of vegetation in the summer should be avoided, as should the use of herbicides. Both this bee and its dependent cuckoo bee are part of “Life on the Edge”, a South Devon AONB/Buglife partnership project to conserve key invertebrates along the south Devon coast.

Map to show the Devon distribution of this species

Image above by John Walters
Heath potter wasp Eumenes coarctatus - Nationally scarce

This charismatic solitary wasp occurs from South Devon to East Sussex, and north to Buckinghamshire. It inhabits lowland heathland with sources of water, such as bogs and ponds, and exposures of clay soil with which the female constructs the intricate pots it uses for its larvae. Devon heaths are a national stronghold. The population at Bovey Heathfield has been intensively studied and is closely monitored by John Walters. The wasp is currently doing well, years where there is good weather in June resulting a larger second boost and an increase in numbers. As such, it is likely to be affected by climate change.

Map to show the Devon distribution of this species

Image above by John Walters
Narrow-headed ant Formica exsecta - Nationally rare

Once found across heathlands from Dorset to Cornwall and in the New Forest, in England this ant now survives naturally at just one site in south Devon, the Devon Wildlife Trust’s Chudleigh Knighton Heath nature reserve. Strong populations, however, persist in Scotland. The species is a focus for ‘Back from the Brink’ under which a four-year project (2017 - 2020), led by a partnership between Buglife and DWT, is well underway to study the species' ecology and improve habitat management at Chudleigh Knighton. Captive rearing is taking place, and pilot translocations are underway to two nearby sites, Bovey Heathfield and Teigngrace Meadow. Monitoring suggests that the ongoing management at Chudleigh Knighton is sustaining the population, and recent targeted management on the adjacent A38 road verge may have led to an increase from 2 to 9 nests. The success of the translocations has yet to be determined.

For more information, click here.

Map to show the Devon distribution of this species

Broad-faced furrow bee Lasioglossum laticeps - Nationally rare

This very rare bee is restricted in Britain to a few soft cliffs between Branscombe (Devon) and Kimmeridge (Dorset). It nests in aggregations in exposed clay slopes and is extremely vulnerable to storm damage and major cliff collapse. The current status of the bee in Devon is unclear: targeted survey effort is required, especially within the Axmouth to Lyme Regis National Nature Reserve. Some other rare or scarce bees and wasps are associated with much the same habitat in the same places, namely the Cliff Furrow Bee Lasioglossum angusticeps, Fringeless Nomad Bee Nomada conjungens, Buff-banded Mining Bee Andrena simillima and the solitary wasp Nysson interruptus. Other rare insects closely associated with the same localities include two Devon Special Species, Morris's Wainscot (a moth) and the cranefly Helius hispanicus

Six-banded nomad bee Nomada sexfasciata - Critically endangered and nationally rare

Considered to be the UK's most endangered bee, this cuckoo bee is now only known from coastline near Prawle Point in Devon. Formerly it was widely distributed in southern Britain. At Prawle the population is critically low: the species is at risk of extinction in Devon and hence the British Isles. Only a single individual was found in 2019. It is dependent on the Long-horned Bee Eucera longicornis, another Devon Special Species, as a cleptoparasite. Buglife are investing in more surveys and monitoring in 2020 and will be producing a Species Recovery Plan. Both species are part of “Life on the Edge”, a South Devon AONB/Buglife partnership project to conserve key invertebrates along the south Devon coast.

Map to show the Devon distribution of this species

Further sources of information:

Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society

South West Bees Project