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Wildflower meadows create a buzz for endangered bees on National Trust estate

Planting flowers including white dead nettle and comfrey at Lytes Cary have helped the shrill carder bee.

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Flower-rich meadows at Lytes Cary (National Trust/Mark Musgrave/PA)

Flower-rich meadows at Lytes Cary (National Trust/Mark Musgrave/PA)

Flower-rich meadows at Lytes Cary (National Trust/Mark Musgrave/PA)

An endangered bee is making a comeback on a National Trust estate with the help of work to create wildflower-rich meadows, the conservation charity said.

Wildlife charities Buglife and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust have designated Lytes Cary Manor and estate in Somerset as one of two “exemplary” sites for the rare shrill carder bee.

The other site where the bee, which gets its name from its high pitched buzz, is doing well is the RSPB’s Rainham Marshes site in Essex.

It has suffered significant declines since the 1950s and is now only found in a handful of locations in southern England and South Wales.

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Shrill carder bees are now only found in a handful of locations (Bumblebee Conservation Trust/Daisy Headley/PA)

Shrill carder bees are now only found in a handful of locations (Bumblebee Conservation Trust/Daisy Headley/PA)

Shrill carder bees are now only found in a handful of locations (Bumblebee Conservation Trust/Daisy Headley/PA)

Like many bees,and other important pollinators, the shrill carder has suffered from the disappearance of 97% of the country’s wildflower meadows since the Second World War, causing huge declines in food sources for insects.

The designation of Lytes Cary as an exemplary site for the bee comes after almost a decade of work by volunteers, staff and farm tenants on the 361-acre (146 hectare) mixed farming estate to recreate wildflower-rich areas.

It is part of the Trust’s wider work on its land to create more than 2,470 acres (1,000 hectares) of flower-rich grasslands as part of efforts to boost nature in the countryside.

At Lytes Cary, under an agri-environmental farming payments scheme, arable fields have been turned into meadows and large, wildflower-rich margins have been put in around the remaining fields of crops.

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Lytes Cary Manor and estate in Somerset is cared for by the National Trust (Chris Lacey/National Trust/PA)

Lytes Cary Manor and estate in Somerset is cared for by the National Trust (Chris Lacey/National Trust/PA)

©National Trust Images/Chris Lac

Lytes Cary Manor and estate in Somerset is cared for by the National Trust (Chris Lacey/National Trust/PA)

Mark Musgrave, the National Trust’s lead ranger at Lytes Cary Manor, said: “The work we did with volunteers included the planting out of hundreds of plugs of white dead nettle and comfrey by volunteers.

“We have been propagating white dead nettle as it’s an important nectar source for adult bees.

“Over the winter our volunteers planted hundreds of white dead nettle and comfrey as well as a mixture of wildflowers from seed which will act as a wider source of nectar and pollen for foraging worker bees, including yellow rattle and black knapweed.

“We are looking at places where we can plant more comfrey, another fantastic nectar source, and will be protecting key sites with flowers known to be good for the bees.”

Sinead Lynch, conservation manager at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: “With the National Trust being one of the largest landowners of flower-rich grasslands, its involvement is crucial for the conservation and recovery of the species.

“Choosing champion sites in our ‘back from the brink shrill carder bee recovery project’ helps to highlight and celebrate where the species are doing well and gives us great case studies to help people to learn about the positive management of the species which in turn helps to secure its long term future.”

PA