Author Graeme Lyons
Ten months ago during an invertebrate survey at Flatropers Wood, we (Alice Parfitt, Chris Bentley and I) collected a specimen of a female Andrenaá(mining bees) that remained unidentified, until now. Bear in mind that last year was the year I first attempted keying out solitary bees, so it was with some trepidation that I keyed this particular bee out to Andrena ferox, anáRed Data Book category 1 Biodiversity Action Plan species with one record in Sussex 70 years ago!!! Basically the rarest Andrena in the country.
I keyed it out again after sleeping on it and it came out to the same species (thanks to Dave Gibbs for his help). Then I keyed it out with James Power, Head of Nature Reserves at the Sussex Wildlife Trust and we got it to the same species. Finally today, county recorder and bee wizard Mike Edwards took a look at it and confirmed it as this species. This is by far my best find of 2014. It's the jewel in the crown of the invertebrate fauna of Flatropers Wood, a site that I should add is not even an SNCI. If you want to read more about Andrena ferox, have a look at the BWARS page and Steven Falk's excellent flickr stream. It looks like many other bees but it has bright orange hind femora, which are themselves covered in orange hairs. Other bees do share this feature though, so again it comes down to microscopic features.
We have so far recorded 610 species of invertebrate from Flatropers during the survey, 297 of which were recorded from the Pylon Ride where Andrena ferox was recorded on the 24th April 2014. We've recorded 32 species of aculeate (bees, ants and wasps) and 27 of these are from this ride. The ride really is where much of the interest of the site is but it was particularly good in the spring and the autumn, showing how important early and late visits are to these kind of surveys. It's produced some really great finds, have a look through some of the highlights here.
So what next for this bee? Well we will go and have another look if we can find more individuals and perhaps find the nesting aggregations in April but I hear this bee is incredibly hard to find (apparently, or am I just really lucky?!) and we may never record another one. We can however take a good look at the site and knowing the bee's requirements, see if there is any management we can put in place, if any, to improve its chances there. It's a very welcome return to our invertebrate fauna and just goes to show how you can make significant finds with relatively limited experience if you adopt the right approach!
The Heritage Lottery Fund helped to fund a project in 2009 at Flatropers Wood to purchase woodland and undertake conservation work to improve the habitat.