New sighting of rare UK Priority Bee Species Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) has created a buzz at Carmel National Nature Reserve (NNR), Carmarthenshire

A joint project of The Grasslands Trust and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust has resulted in an exciting discovery of the rare Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis), a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Species, at Carmel National Nature Reserve.

Bumblebee numbers have sharply declined with the loss of traditional habitat and intensive agricultural practices. The UK’s wildlife-rich grasslands have declined by 97% in the last 70 years as a result of intensive agriculture, development and neglect with profound impacts for native bumblebee populations, including loss of habitat and food resources.

Carmel National Nature Reserve, near Cross Hands in Carmarthenshire, is one of the UK’s richest wildlife areas and an internationally significant site. Its range of habitats includes ancient woodland, heathland, and species-rich grassland which support some of the UK’s rarest plant and animal species. Situated on a limestone ridge, the area was historically used for quarrying and traditional agriculture, resulting in a mixture of ancient meadows and woodlands, quarries, spoil heaps and lime kilns. Declared a National Nature Reserve in 1999, Carmel is managed by The Grasslands Trust and the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).

In 2006, The Grasslands Trust took over the management of a greater part of the Reserve to restore grasslands that had been damaged through intensive agriculture back to flower-rich meadows and pastures. Through the “Working with Nature” Project funded by GrantScape, The Grasslands Trust, in partnership with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, has been working to increase the populations of bumblebee species by undertaking restoration of their primary habitat: wildlife-rich grasslands. Restoration work has also included the restoration of woodland glades and small sunny quarries, by managing the encroaching shrubs.

The Brown-banded carder bee prefers open, flower-rich habitats on drier sites. Quarries and brownfield sites, like Carmel, play a significant role in the conservation of the species. This new discovery of the Brown-banded carder bee is welcomed by the two organisations as an exciting and important result for the project.

In speaking of the project, The Grasslands Trust CEO Lucy Cooper said: “This is incredibly exciting news for us and is an excellent example of public and charitable funds being put to good use for the benefit of people and wildlife. Bumblebees are essential for the pollination of wild flowers and food crops and play an intrinsic role in the provision of ecosystem services vital to maintain life in our ever-increasingly industrialised world.”

Dr Ben Darvill, CEO of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust said: "The UK's farmed landscape is largely brown or green. It never used to be that way. A visit to Carmel in the summer months reveals the full palette of natural colours, with wall-to-wall wildflowers and the uplifting buzz of bees. Hopefully this conservation work will inspire others to create vibrant meadows on their doorsteps."

An important element of the “Working with Nature” Project includes training volunteers in bumblebee identification. At the 12th June training event led by staff from both organisations, the bumblebee was first sighted by Gill Perkins BBCT Conservation Manager and identified by Sinead Lynch BBCT BfE Conservation Officer (Wales). Other bumblebees sighted include the Barbut’s cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus barbutellus) and the Heath Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus).

Gill Perkins said: “To actually find and identify a rare bumblebee has been one of the highlights of my work with Bumblebee Conservation Trust so far. The Carmel Reserve is a magical place and walking through the woodland glades and meadows reminded me of how much we must value and manage this site for everyone to enjoy, now and in the future.”

The restoration of Carmel NNR has been made possible by the generous support of our funders GrantScape, Biffaward, WREN (Gwendraeth Grasslands Project), the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, The National Lottery and the Charitable Trusts who support our work. GrantScape’s £200,000 award for the project ‘Making a beeline to Carmel’s meadows’ provided critical funding for the restoration and management of Carmel’s bee-friendly habitat.

In speaking of the award, Andrew Budd, who is also Grant Manager for the CWM Community and Environmental Fund in Carmarthenshire, said: “On what is only just the second anniversary of GrantScape’s 3-year grant, it is fantastic to hear that such a scarce bumblebee species has already rediscovered Carmel’s wildlife-rich grasslands. This is a clear indication of the project’s success, and one which we hope can be built on over the coming years”.

Miles King, The Grasslands Trust Director of Conservation said: ““Finding such a threatened bumblebee at Carmel is great news for The Grasslands Trust and it is a strong endorsement of all the work we have been doing restoring the meadows at Carmel. It shows how important it is to focus conservation effort in the right places, forge partnerships between communities, landowners and conservation charities, and the need to carry out detailed surveys of key species.”

The 1994 UK Biodiversity Action Plan was the UK Government’s response to signing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, setting out a programme for conserving the UK’s biodiversity. Twenty years on, while the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) has been discussing the sustainable future of our planet, and whilst many of the targets have not yet been met, The Grasslands Trust and Bumblebee Conservation Trust are delighted that their vital work in the restoration of the UK’s grasslands to provide essential habitat and food resources for bumblebees is returning such a positive result.

  • Declared a National Nature Reserve in 1999, Carmel NNR is largely owned by Tarmac Limited but is managed by The Grasslands Trust and the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).
  • The 1994 UK Biodiversity Action Plan was the UK Government’s response to signing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, setting out a programme for conserving the UK’s biodiversity. The 2007 review of the UK BAP priority list led to the identification of 1,150 species and 65 habitats that meet the BAP criteria at UK level.
  • The rare Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Species which has suffered a dramatic decline in numbers. Habitat preference is for open flower-rich habitats on drier sites and it is found on quarry or brownfield sites which play a significant role in the conservation of the species. It is one of the 7 bee species that requires management of sward height to maintain optimum flower levels
  • The Grasslands Trust (TGT) www.grasslands-trust.org was created in 2002 to address the crisis facing wildlife-rich grasslands in the UK. Our aim is to secure grassland sites that are rich in wildlife or important for their beauty, landscape or cultural value.

In the last 70 years 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have been destroyed. Many sites are so small and isolated they no longer provide a sustainable home for the plants and insects that depend on them. These beautiful, species-rich habitats support many of our best loved species - birds such as the barn owl, skylark, and lapwing; mammals like voles and hares; plants such as the green-winged orchid, ox-eye daisy and common mouse-ear; and many types of butterfly and bumblebee.

Our vision is that, one day, everyone in the UK will live near to a wildlife-rich grassland. To achieve this we are working to: save and restore critically threatened meadows and pastures; protect and conserve our native wildlife, flowers and history; connect communities with local green spaces and wildlife; and campaign for stronger legislation to protect our grasslands.

  • The Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) www.bumblebeeconservation.org is a leading invertebrate conservation charity with technical expertise and a strong track record of habitat delivery, awareness raising and public engagement.

The UK currently has 24 species of bumblebees. Since the Second World War, two species have become nationally extinct and several others have declined dramatically. Seven species are on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan in recognition of the urgent need for conservation action. These rare species will be targeted for help by BBCT conservation staff.

GrantScape www.grantscape.org.uk is a grant-making charity committed to enhancing the environment and strengthening local communities through its grant programmes. GrantScape’s experience stretches back to 1997, and it has awarded grants totalling over £70 million to deserving projects over this time.

“Working with Nature” was the charity’s fourth nature conservation grant programme made available through its Biodiversity Challenge Fund. Since 2005, GrantScape has awarded some £10 million through this Fund to 25 highly deserving projects across England and Wales, chosen for the contribution that they will make to the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan priorities. The Grassland Trust’s “Beeline” project at Carmel is one of these nationally important projects.

GrantScape also manages grant programmes on behalf of other benefactors in the UK, tailored to their individual requirements.


  • Brown-banded carder bee_1

The Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) is a rare bumblebee species that has suffered dramatic decline through the loss of traditional habitat and intensive agricultural practices. Habitat preference is for open flower-rich habitats on drier sites and it is found on quarry or brownfield sites which play a significant role in the conservation of the species. It is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Species.
Link to Brown-banded carder bee_1 on Flikr © The Bumblebee Conservation Trust http://www.flickr.com/photos/bumblebeeconservation/6966283732/sizes/k/in/set-72157629532232572/

2. Brown-banded carder bee_2
The Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) is a rare bumblebee species that has suffered dramatic decline through the loss of traditional habitat and intensive agricultural practices. Habitat preference is for open flower-rich habitats on drier sites and it is found on quarry or brownfield sites which play a significant role in the conservation of the species. It is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Species.
Link to Brown-banded carder bee_2 on Flikr © The Bumblebee Conservation Trust
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bumblebeeconservation/7112359313/sizes/h/in/set-72157629532232572/

3. Brown-banded carder bee_3
The Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) is a rare bumblebee species that has suffered dramatic decline through the loss of traditional habitat and intensive agricultural practices. Habitat preference is for open flower-rich habitats on drier sites and it is found on quarry or brownfield sites which play a significant role in the conservation of the species. It is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Species.
Link to Brown-banded carder bee_3 on Flikr © The Bumblebee Conservation Trust http://www.flickr.com/photos/bumblebeeconservation/7112359103/sizes/l/in/set-72157629532232572/

4. Identifying bees in Carmel NNR Meadows
Volunteers undertaking a bee survey in the meadows of Carmel National Nature Reserve. The Grasslands Trust, in partnership with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, has been working to increase the populations of bumblebee species by undertaking restoration of their primary habitat: wildlife-rich grasslands. © The Grasslands Trust