It’s been a good first year for the Tower Hamlets Bee Survey, with almost a thousand bees logged in parks and gardens across the borough. Bees are very important pollinators of food crops. They are in decline due to a combination of habitat loss, pesticides and disease. Bumblebees are a priority species group in the new Tower Hamlets Local Biodiversity Action Plan. The survey aims to monitor whether efforts to provide more habitat for bumblebees, such as nectar-rich flowers and places to nest, are working, so that bumblebee numbers increase.
The survey was launched by the Council and Poplar HARCA in spring 2014 and it’s very easy to take part. Residents are asked to count bees for 15 minutes, at least once per month, in their garden, local park or anywhere else with plenty of flowers, and to record the results on a simple online form or post their counts to the Biodiversity Officer. All volunteers receive a free bee identification chart. For more information, see this article.
In the first year of the survey, 11 volunteers made 68 counts at 15 sites. A total of 904 bees were counted, with 15 different species recorded. The total included 544 Honey Bees, 329 bumblebees and 31 solitary bees. The highest count in a single site visit was 94 bees at Grove Hall Park on 8 July.
Nine species of bumblebees were identified, including the nationally scarce Brown-banded Carder Bee (see photo above), which was recorded at two sites. The commonest bumblebees were White-tailed and Buff-tailed Bumblebees, which are so similar they can’t be readily separated, so are usually recorded as “either/or”. A total of 214 of these two species were counted. Next commonest were the Tree Bumblebee with 56 and the Common Carder Bee with 31.
If you’d like to take part in the survey in 2015, please e-mail the Biodiversity Officer, giving your name, postal address (so we can send your identification chart) and details of where in Tower Hamlets you want to count bees. Next year’s survey will start in the spring, as soon as the weather has warmed up sufficiently for bees to be on the wing.