Rare Scilly Bee Spotted On St Martin’s

A photo of the Scilly Bee taken by Elizabeth Clements

The Scilly Bee is alive and well on our islands.

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust and Kent-based insect expert, entomologist Ian Beavis, have confirmed the sighting from a rare picture of the unique insect, the Moss Carder bee, taken on St Martin’s.

The photo was taken by St Mary’s resident, Elizabeth Clements. She spotted the insect amongst heather near Chapel Down and took the picture on her phone.

There have been reported sightings on St Agnes and Bryher this summer but no photo evidence to back up the identification. Ian says he’s pleased to have received some solid evidence. The last verified sighting of the bee was in 2009 and, before that, in 2003.

Last year’s Scilly Bee Project failed to uncover any of them.

Ian, who led the recent bee-hunting walks says he is delighted as he genuinely thought the Scilly Bee was extinct.

Julie Love from the Wildlife Trust says they’ve suspected the bees might be living at Chapel Down because they like the heather and birds-foot trefoil growing there.

She says the Trust have been working hard teaching people how to distinguish between the different types of bees on the islands and that seems to have paid off.

Julie said they’re brown and fluffy all over, with a few brown stripes on their abdomen.

She said they are solitary bees that nest on their own rather than in colonies.

Andrew Cooper coined the name for them in the 1980s when making a TV documentary.

Ian says it is difficult to tell how many of the bees there may be but they are in low numbers and he adds ‘we’re not out the woods yet’. The reason why the numbers have fallen is unclear.

Julie says, “It’s a good year for the Scilly Bee’s favourite plant, birds-foot trefoil, so we are hopeful there will be more sightings this year.”

Anyone spotting the bee should try to take a photo and email it to the Wildlife Trust for identification.


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