The Tower Hamlets Bee Survey, launched in 2014, goes from strength to strength, with nearly 1500 bees logged during the survey’s second year.
It’s very easy to take part in the survey. Residents are asked to count bees for 15 minutes, at least once per month, in their garden, local park or anywhere else in Tower Hamlets 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. 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 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.
In 2015, 15 volunteers (or groups of volunteers, as there is a group counting bees in Spitalfields City Farm) made 86 counts at 20 sites. A total of 1442 bees were counted, with 14 different species recorded. The total included 777 Honey Bees, 586 bumblebees and 79 solitary bees. The highest count in a single site visit was 164 bees at Lion Mills Community Garden on 19 July, and the most bumblebees was 59 in the Millennium Park, Mile End Park, on 27 July. Over the two years the survey has been running, 2346 bees have been counted, including 915 bumblebees.
Eight species of bumblebees were identified this year, including the nationally scarce Brown-banded Carder Bee, which was recorded at four sites, including Spitalfields Farm (see photo above). 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 335 of these two species were counted. Next commonest were the Common Carder Bee with 97 and the Tree Bumblebee with 70.
If you’d like to take part in the survey in 2016, 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.