Silver-Studded Blue Butterflies and Bees
Read about the rare Silver-Studded Blue and how we try to help our bee population.
- Silver-studded Blue Butterflies (Plebejus argus)
- Protecting our bee population
- Busy Bees at Kelling Heath
Silver-studded Blue Butterflies (Plebejus argus)
Here at Kelling Heath we have a rare butterfly - the Silver-studded Blue. It has declined throughout Britain becoming extinct in northern, central and southeast regions. The main reason for this decline is the loss of suitable heathland on which they depend, in the last century much Heathland has been planted for forestry, ploughed for agriculture or left unmanaged.
Silver-studded Blues became extinct on Kelling Heath by the 1970's mainly due to a lack of management. Following a study of heathlands in Norfolk, by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and English Nature, Kelling Heath was found to be a suitable place to reintroduce the butterfly, if appropriate management was carried out.
In 2001 several adult butterflies were translocated from another site in Norfolk to two release sites on Kelling Heath. Since then the butterflies have been increasing in number and have spread into new areas. Management is carried out each year to improve the area for the butterflies and other heathland wildlife and each year we have seen an increase in the numbers of Silver-studded Blues on the heath.
In 2013, 562 silver studded blue butterflies were recorded on Kelling Heath compared to 162 recorded on the same day in 2012.
Protecting our bee population
Bumblebees are among the more familiar of our insects but are under increasing threat due to changes in how the countryside is farmed. The number of species found in most of lowland Britain has halved since 1950 and three species have gone nationally extinct and several more may follow in the near future unless action is taken.
Bees feed exclusively on pollen and nectar and there are now far fewer flowers in the countryside than there once were. Hedges have been removed and marshes drained and unimproved grasslands which are rich in wildflowers have been lost and replaced by silage and cereal fields.
There is also concern about the decline in honeybees particularly from the Varroa mite which is decimating colonies throughout the world and which has been the subject of debate worldwide and in our own Houses of Parliament.
Bees make an important contribution to the sustainability of the countryside, contributing both to agriculture and horticulture and to biodiversity. They also produce honey and other hive products and further losses will have serious implications on food production both in the UK and worldwide.
At Kelling Heath we will:
- Research the habitat that is required for bees to thrive and review how we can provide pockets of suitable habitat at Kelling Heath without compromising existing habitats
- Interpret the threats to the bee population to visitors and show how we are attempting to reverse the decline
- Provide simple guidance on how visitors can play their part in helping to preserve the bee population in their own gardens across Britain
Busy Bees at Kelling Heath
We have two Beehives at Kelling Heath; there have been a couple of hives on park for as long as many of our staff can remember but they needed some TLC………
Along came Kay King (a holiday homeowner on park and a novice beekeeper) who tells us:
“My youngest daughter, Sarah, bought me a beekeeping experience as a birthday present in 2018 as I had shown an interest in keeping bees. After that I contacted Barry Walker-Moore who lives in Cromer and has been keeping bees for about 30 years who kindly agreed to mentor me. Initially he checked where I could site a beehive in my garden but it turned out that my garden is unsuitable for a beehive due, amongst other things, to the close proximity of a junior school, so I contacted John Cummings to offer help with the Kelling hives.”
Barry tells us that when he retired 10 years ago, he increased the number of hives he had, so he was the perfect man to assist Kay in developing our bee colonies. So firstly, as the existing hives were a bit neglected, two new hives were assembled with stands constructed by our Countryside Team and then Barry and Kay transferred the bees to the new hives.
Kay and Barry regularly checked the bees together before lockdown visiting them about every two weeks. During this last winter they were well fed and treated for the Varroa Mite (a parasite that attacks honeybee colonies) using special treatment patches in the hives several times during the winter months.
During the pandemic Kay and Barry have been able to continue to monitor and visit the bees in the hives as they are classed as livestock, but they have been going independently of each other. Kay sends Barry photos of anything unusual and he, very patiently, explains what the colony are doing or what we need to do to help the bees (certainly sounds like the two of them have a partnership for the keeping!)
There are now two very strong colonies of bees, at the moment the two colonies have between 50,000 & 60,000 bees in each hive, they have 1 Queen with approx. 200 Drones (males) and the rest are workers (females) in nice new homes!
Last summer Barry did spend some time talking to passers-by explaining about the bees and when lockdown is over and the site reopens, he looks forward to sharing his knowledge with people again!
Interested in finding out some Bee facts look at the Beekeepers Association website here (we would love to hear if you get the buzz to keep some bees for yourself)!