Bees of the Coast Path

Bees play a critical role in our ecosystem. They perform 80% of all pollination worldwide and are the key to maintaining stable, healthy food supplies. But due to a range of factors such as the use of pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, air pollution, and global warming – bee colonies are collapsing worldwide. The South West Coast Path is the last stronghold of some of the UK's most endangered bee species.

The South West Coast Path allows bees to travel safely between a variety of habitats, much of the south west also has a milder climate in comparison to elsewhere in the country, which is more favourable for bees. In Cornwall for example, the South West Coast Path has some of the largest quantity and rarest bees in England. In Devon, four out of six habitats critically important for bumble bees can be found on the Coast Path.

The South West Coast Path as a B-Line

Photo: Bee on the Coast Path at St Agnes Head by Jen Gregory

The entire of the South West's coastline has been designated as a 'B-Line' by leading insect charity Bug-Life as part of their work to help bee and other pollinator populations recover.

They describe B-lines as an "imaginative and beautiful solution to the problem of the loss of flowers and pollinators. The B-Lines are a series of ‘insect pathways’ running through our countryside and towns, along which we are restoring and creating a series of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones. They link existing wildlife areas together, creating a network, like a railway, that will weave across the British landscape. This will provide large areas of brand new habitat benefiting bees and butterflies– but also a host of other wildlife. The South West is of national importance for bees and other pollinating insects due to the unique conditions resulting from a combination of a favourable climate and great diversity of high quality habitats like coastal cliffs, sand dunes, wildflower grasslands, heathland and moorland."

The Brown-banded carder bee

Photo: Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) by Ray Reeves, BCT

This rare, and nationally important species of bee live on both the Devon and Cornwall coast. They are known as ‘doorstep foragers’ as they don’t travel as far for their food as other types of bee will. This means that they need well-connected areas of flowers in just a 500m radius to survive - exactly what the South West Coast Path corridor gives them. In north Devon, the Brown-banded carder bee feasts on high-quality, flower-rich, maritime cliff grassland, heathland and dune sites all connected by the Coast Path. They have also been found on long linear stretches of the north coast of Cornwall.

Read more in 'Bumblebees of Devon' by Patrick Saunders

Discover current wildlife and environmental Path projects: