Checking up on the new bumblebee habitats at Thames Water sites

Last Summer, our conservation team was busy creating habitat for rare bumblebees throughout the UK. One year on and some of them have revisited sites to see how they are progressing. This blog update comes from Sam, our Conservation Officer for the East of England.

I had a great visit to Coppermills Water Treatment Works in Walthamstow, London last week with Thames Water’s Biodiversity Manager, Cathy Purse.  We’ve been working with Thames Water to help them manage the site more favourably for bumblebees and everyone was very excited when the rare Moss carder bee, Bombus muscorum, was recorded there last year.

When I first visited the treatment works last summer, the grassy banks around the perimeter were being cut very short every few weeks, mainly to keep it neat and tidy but also for security and technical reasons. This meant there were very few flowers available for our bees.  The great news is that Thames Water has followed our advice and is now leaving most of the banks uncut through the spring and summer – and it’s now a haven for wildlife, teeming with bumblebees, butterflies and other insects!  The photo below shows how it looks now.

Cathy and I were also keen to see whether the yellow rattle seed that had been sown last autumn had established.  Yellow rattle is an important plant for grassland restoration because it feeds off the roots of grasses, weakening them and so creating space for wildflowers.  Bumblebees also love it!  I was a bit nervous as yellow rattle can be a bit unpredictable and there was so much rain last November when the seed was sown – but success, it’s come up beautifully!  We even saw several bumblebees enjoying it too!

Yellow rattle, a favourite food plant for bumblebees.

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