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The North East Bee Hunt: Map bees along the Northumberland coast

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/files/News/Moss Carder Bee at Lindisfarne, a bee largely confined to the uplands (c) Charlotte Rankin.jpg
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Moss Carder Bee at Lindisfarne, a bee largely confined to the uplands Charlotte Rankin

This spring and summer, the Natural History Society of Northumbria (NHSN) is encouraging the North East to take part in the North East Bee Hunt and put bees on the region’s map.

Bees are well-loved and familiar insects but there is still much to discover and learn about them in the North East. Across the region, there are around 100 recorded bee species. Many bee species can be found within our gardens and green spaces. Your sightings can add to our understanding of bees in the North East.

The Northumberland Coast AONB supports a number of particularly special bee species. Throughout summer, the rare Moss Carder Bee (Bombus muscorum) can be found at Lindisfarne. This is a very important lowland site for a species largely confined to the uplands of the region. Cheswick Dunes was also the region’s first known site of the Harebell specialist Blunthorn Bee, Melitta haemorrhoidalis. This solitary bee is only known from one other site in the region and depends on sites with good populations of Harebell.

Why record your sightings?

In order to protect bees, we need to know as much as we can about them. Many species are also under-recorded and we know little about their distributions. Your records can add to our understanding of bee species in the region by plugging gaps in knowledge and informing how distributions are changing over time.

In 2020, the North East Bee Hunt was launched by NHSN to encourage people across the North East to share and record their bee sightings. Set up as a group on iRecord, bee hunt records are checked by experts and made available to inform monitoring and conservation efforts, regionally and beyond.

Last year, over 2,400 bee hunt records were submitted of 41 different species. 170 Bee Hunt volunteers helped to expand our knowledge of bees in the region and revealed new sites for species with few known records. Over 100 records were shared from the Northumberland Coast AONB. Here, a particular highlight was a sighting of the Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes). An early-flying solitary bee, this bee is confined to North Northumberland in the region and was recorded further from Alnwick than previously known.

Take part in the North East Bee Hunt

This year, the North East Bee Hunt is back with eight target bee species to look out for and record. These are among our most distinctive bees and can be found close to home. Four of these bees are spring-flying and the queens of target bumblebees are among the first bees out in the year. So now is the perfect time to look out for them and take part!

Covering identification and ecology, there are species profiles for each of the bee hunt target species and these can be viewed here. While there are target bee species to look out for, all bumblebee and solitary bee records are very welcome.

Taking part in the Bee Hunt is simple. When you spot a bee, try to take a photo and note the four different parts of your sighting: what species, where, when and who found it. You can then submit your record to the Bee Hunt project group on iRecord.

All the information you need to take part can be found on the North East Bee Hunt webpage at:

Please do share your sightings with us on social media using the hashtag #NEBeeHunt and get in touch with Charlotte (NHSN Conservation Officer) at if you have any queries or would like help with submitting a record.

Happy bee spotting!

Other Photos

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Tree Bumblebees were first recorded in Northumberland in 2007 Chris Wren
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The red-tailed Cuckoo Bees take over the nest of the red-tailed Bumblebees Chris Wren
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The fork-tailed flower bees favour plants from the dead-nettle family including Salvias and Woundworts Charlotte Rankin
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Tawny mining bees commonly nest in short lawns Charlotte Rankin
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Red-tailed Bumblebees nest underground in old rodent burrows Louise Hislop
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Red Mason Bees are frequent occupiers of garden bee hotels Ryan Clark
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Garden Bumblebees have long tongues and visit deep flowers Chris Barlow
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Ashy Mining Bees nest in sandy bare soils Ryan Clark