30 Days Wild | Day 19

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The overpowering heat today made doing anything outside rather exhausting either side of dawn and dusk. That said, the calm and sunny weather made for ideal conditions to carry out this month’s BeeWalk survey.

This year I decided to set up a Bee-recording transect on the island as part of a wider national citizen science project called the ‘BeeWalk’, coordinated by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. This scheme encourages people to walk a short transect (up to a few km) at least once a month throughout the year and record any bumblebees encountered.

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BCT: http://bumblebeeconservation.org/

The whole basis of this project is to try and provide good baseline data on the abundance and distribution of these vital and charismatic pollinators, enabling us to track changes in their populations over time and space. Carrying out such important ecosystem services, wild bees have experience worrying declines across the country in the last decade, being bombarded with a plethora of factors from pesticides through to loss of food sources. Attaining good quality data will enable us to monitor their populations to gain deeper understandings of such declines.

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A queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee on Pussy Willows back no the April transect

Returning to the island, today was due-date for the June Bee transect survey, the route taking in the island’s heath-topped hill, a few of the exotic flower-filled gardens and a variety of pastures, meadows and grassland through the lowlands. Liam Curson has been helping out with the transects this year, filling in when I’ve been away at uni – and so both he and Elliot joined me for today’s transect

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The BeeWalk website is very easy to use and provides mapping tools for you to designate your set transect route – here is our island route

We set off in the early afternoon, one of us noting down the bumblebees that crossed the 4 metre x 4 metre recording area around us, whilst I noted down any butterflies we came across, the plants we observed bumblebees visiting, and any other insects we could identify too.

It was a very enjoyable walk, with a cooling northerly breeze just about maintaining a bearable temperature in the afternoon sun. There were plenty of insects around, particularly day-flying moths, and we noted an excellent number of migrating Red Admirals during the walk (over 50). Bumblebees, however, were conspicuous in their absence! We only recorded 24 individuals over the course of 2.5 hours, compared to 86 in our May transect and 63 in the April one.

It may be that the heat is a little too much for them at the moment, as these creatures aren’t built for hot climates: being large and hairy, they are adapted for temperate regions and don’t occur in as much diversity or abundance in the tropical regions of the World.

Needless to say, it was still good to record a selection of species, including a smart Heath Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus). I’ve never seen this species on Bardsey before, as it is very similar to the more common Garden Bumblebee: the key difference is in the length of its face and tongue, being far shorter in Heath than Garden. Here is the full results from our transect…

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In addition to the bees and the butterflies, the colourful tapestry of wildflowers along our route was attracting a number of other insects too: hoverflies aplenty, including the impressive bumblebee-mimic Volucella bombylans; a stunning electric-blue Sawfly (as yet to be identified), and plenty of micro moths…

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An incredible Soldierfly which I’ve not seen before, called Chloromyia formosa
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The lovely little four-petalled Tormentil (Potentilla erecta) flowers are emerging amongst the grasses on the mountain at the moment
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The abundant grassland specialist micro moth Chrysoetuchia culmella, or Garden Grass Veneer

Even if you’re not entirely experienced with identifying bumblebees, I’d thoroughly encourage you to think about setting up a transect route and giving it a go. It only takes an hour or so every month, and is great fun, as well as being useful in a broader scientific context. Head to http://www.beewalk.org.uk/ for more info

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