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Council's new wildflower approach is a real buzz for rare bees

Brown-banded carder bee, Bombus humilis, Ray Reeves

A rare bumblebee has returned to Lewes after an absence of more than 50 years thanks to grounds maintenance changes at the town's cemetery.

The brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) has declined sharply in the UK in recent years due to loss of habitat and is now only usually found on grassland such as the South Downs where the plants it relies on for pollen and nectar still flourish.

Alongside this exceptional sighting at Lewes Cemetery is the discovery of another rarity - the Long-Horned Nomad Bee (Nomada hirtipes).

This species has never been spotted in Lewes and it is remarkable because, unlike most other bees, it does not collect pollen for its larvae but instead takes over the nests of other bees.

Councillor Matthew Bird, the Co-operative Alliance's Cabinet member for Sustainability at Lewes District Council, said: "These two rare species are a resounding endorsement of our new approach at the cemetery, leaving wildflowers to grow throughout the spring and summer so that bees have access to the pollen and nectar they need to thrive in the heart of the town.

"I am delighted we are bringing more nature, insects and biodiversity to our green spaces in Lewes district, especially given the global ecological emergency and dramatic reduction in pollinators."

Cllr Julie Carr, Lead Cabinet member for Recycling, Waste and Open Spaces added: ”I am delighted to say that the council has also made Lewes Cemetery in Rotten Row a pesticide-free site, meaning that no chemicals are used to control weeds and unwanted plants, giving the insect and wildlife population a much better chance to thrive. 

“This complements our work to plant wildflowers elsewhere in the district including in our public gardens at Southover Grange Gardens in Lewes and Fort Road Recreation Ground in Newhaven. These plants will be beneficial for other bees, butterflies, and insects, as well as providing an attractive display over the coming months.

"In recent years we have seen an alarming decline in the number of bees in the UK. We would like to encourage anyone in the district with access to a garden to plant a few pollinator friendly plants in their gardens."

The Royal Horticultural Society has information about pollinator friendly plant on their website: www.rhs.org.uk/science/conservation-biodiversity/wildlife/plants-for-pollinators