Rare bee colonies discovered in Scotland

This video says about itself: ‘ A mining bee digs its nest’.

From the BBC:

Mining bee stronghold uncovered

One of the UK’s rarest bees has established a stronghold in sandy dunes on the Western Isles.

RSPB Scotland said its staff and enthusiasts had discovered multiple nest sites of northern colletes, or mining bees, on the Uists.

Berneray, off the tip of North Uist, has emerged as the most northerly site in the UK for the threatened species, said the wildlife organisation.

More than 10 colonies have been found on the island.

Jamie Boyle, RSPB Scotland’s Uist warden, said: “This is really great news and extremely encouraging for this struggling and very rare species.”

Northern colletes is a solitary variety and burrows underground into soft soil to build its nest where it stores nectar and pollen for its larvae.

They differ from bumblebees and honey bees in having no workers.

Although they do not co-operate with each other, they nest in what are termed “aggregations” – the insect equivalent of rookeries.

Because of this it prefers gently sloping sandy banks and dunes, close to the herb-rich machair meadows familiar on the islands.

Mr Boyle said: “As well as in the Uists, there are only a few other isolated UK locations that the northern colletes bee occurs, such as on the Ayrshire coast – where it was first discovered in the UK more than a century ago.”

See also here.

Honeybees vs. hornets: here.

The bee-killing Asian hornet is set to invade Britain: here.


6 thoughts on “Rare bee colonies discovered in Scotland

  1. Dear Madam, sir,

    I live in The Hague, The Netherlands (near the coast, plenty of sand dunes).
    In my small city garden I have two garden pots with thyme.The soil: a mixture of (river) sand and garden soil. This summer Mining Bees settled in the two pots.

    I have been asking myself what will happen coming winter. Will the bees survive? Soil in garden pots tends to freeze sooner than the soil in the rest of the garden.

    What kind of measure can I take?

    I have been enjoying the activity of the bees very much.

    In anticipation of an answer.

    Friendly regards,

    Lizia Niema

  2. Dear Ms Lizia Niema,

    thanks for your question. I understand the species in your pots is Dasypoda hirtipes, the hairy legged mining bee; see here. At the moment, I don’t know how this species spends the winter. But I will look further. In bumblebees, just the queens survive winter. However, mining bees do not have queens.

  3. Dear Ms Lizia Niema,

    Hairy legged mining bees are univoltine.


    “Development is usually quick, taking only a few weeks to pupation. The bee may then remain a pupa until a suitable emergence time. In species with more than one generation per year this may be quite soon after pupation is finished, but in the many univoltine (having one generation per year) species it will mean over-wintering as a pupa. over-wintering may be extended to several years when the weather is poor. Alternatively species like Andrena and Osmia emerge from the pupa and overwinter as inactive adults in the cell, or in some species of Xylocopa and Ceratina may emerge in the fall and then overwinter gregariously in old burrows or other suitable places. Most do not form a cocoon, the exception to this is the Megachilids.”

    Source: http://www.earthlife.net/insects/solbees.html

    So, very probably, your bee species will spend the winter as pupas.

  4. From: Mark Simmons [entomologist in Scotland]

    Date: 20/09/2007 10:54:50

    Subject: RE: Bees

    Please pass on to Lizia.

    The solitary bee burrows will probably be home for one grub in each burrow. They will be well stocked with pollen and nectar by the female bee to support the grub through the winter. In early spring it should emerge as a new adult and set up a new burrow in a suitable location. I guess if there is slight chance of frost killing the grubs in the pot depending on how severe the winter is but generally the sandy soil will act as a good insulator and protect the bee grub from the surface frost. To be on the safe side you could move the pots to a frost free location perhaps adjacent to a south facing wall.

    Hope that helps.


  5. Good to see the Bees surviving in Ayrshire. I returned recently from the US on one of those Golf Breaks in Ayr – the countryside is a beautiful as ever!

  6. Pingback: ‘Extinct’ British oil beetle rediscovered in Devon | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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