Nature: How Nick Owens has been busy like the bees...

PUBLISHED: 17:08 19 December 2017

Bumble bees: There are many species of this type of bee to be found in Norfolk. Picture: Ben Mutton/

Bumble bees: There are many species of this type of bee to be found in Norfolk. Picture: Ben Mutton/

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Rex Hancy on how a new study is revealing the huge variety of bee species in Norfolk.

As each year passes, to me the hazards of winter loom more with ever more menace. Reminders of better days to come are a great comfort and at the moment I am looking at one which conjures up pictures and sounds of summer combined with the prospects of recognising some fellow inhabitants of our modest plot.

Bumblebees of Norfolk by Nick Owens and David Richmond was an invaluable guide to recognising and understanding those particular insects, well-loved in theory but seriously pressured by our human population. The clear text, distribution maps, excellent photographs and background information soon proved their worth. Little did we know more, much more, was to come. The same basic format has been extended to cover the complete bee fauna of our county in The Bees of Norfolk by Nick Owens. Roughly two dozen species of bumblebee were covered in the previous publication. Here we have just under 200. They comprise a bewildering array of bees, many of which have always been a complete mystery to me.

I think it is fair to say that most of us divide bees into three groups, bumblebees, honey bees and bees of some sort or other. The “some sort or other” group does contain species which could easily be mistaken for wasps or flies. Others conform to our perception of bees but need the assistance of a publication like this to help us sort them out. A miserable winter’s afternoon can well be brightened by even a random opening of the guide. The common names are themselves lures to make us want to know more. “Ashy mining bee” gives a clue or two about the habits and appearance of a widely scattered species as “sandpit bloody bee” does about another. Names can be enormous fun to help give us a toe-hold in a new study before taking in the scientific binomials which eventually lead us on to deeper understanding.

Nick’s industry and dedication during a comparatively short period of time has given us a treasure chest of information. He sought the help and guidance of all interested parties and scoured the records but clearly his was the driving force which coordinated the material to be passed on to a grateful public.

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