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North Merseyside Biodiversity Action Plan
Vernal Mining-bee Colletes cunicularius
1. Current Status
1.1.1 The British distribution of the Vernal Bee is mapped in Edwards (1997). The species has an unusual distribution, being confined to a number of extensive coastal sand dune systems in North-west England and North and South Wales. However, on the continent, it occurs in a wider range of sandy habitats, both on the coast and inland.
1.1.2 As its vernacular name suggests, the bee is an early spring species, normally occurring from late March to the end of May. It nests in old blow-outs undergoing secondary plant colonisation in semi-fixed yellow dune habitat. Females forage predominantly, but not exclusively, on the pollen of Creeping Willow Salix repens and mass emergence of both sexes, which are triggered by a period of warm weather, occur over two to three days.
1.1.3 British specimens of the Vernal Bee were recognised by O’Toole (1974) as a distinct subspecies – Colletes cunicularius celticus and there is a possibility they might represent a distinct species (Albans et al., 1980).
1.1.4 In Great Britain this species is designated as a British Red Data Book 3 (Rare) species by Falk (1991) who reviewed its conservation management requirements and biology.
1.2.1 Found along the Sefton Coast sand dune system from Birkdale to Hightown, the latter being the type locality for the subspecies.