Wednesday 26 August 2020

Shetland Bees

 There are an amazing 25,000 species of Bee in the world and about 250 of these live in Britain. In Shetland we just have four resident bees with the occasional migrant.

Bees are social insects, with colonies of over 50,000 individuals. 

In Shetland we have records of  9 Social bees

 1. Honey Bee- Not known to occur naturally, although there are several hives kept on mainland shetland

2. Broken Banded Bumblebee - supposed to have occurred on Yell a long time ago

3. Northern White Tailed Bumblebee - common in gardens and crofting land. Seen April - September

4. Small Heath bumblebee - scarce on moorland on the mainland, Muckle Roe and Unst. It has a yellow tip  rather than a white tip as found in other races.

5. Garden Bumblebee- Usually around gardens and crops, but widespread

6. Great Yellow Bumblebee - presumed extinct, old records from before 1960

7. Shetland Bumblebee - Common throughout the isles. The Shetland subspecies agricolae, May - October, It is much more colourful than its counterpart on mainland Britain (Moss Carder Bee). It has a bright orange thorax and a yellow abdomen.

8. Buff tailed Bumblebee- first discovered in 2012 and is now widespread throughout Shetland

9. Early Bumblebee - First found in 2018 but only found in Lerwick and Bressay. It has a bright orange tip. Some found a few days ago behind Clickimin

Now just 6 species of bee in Shetland.  The first bees we see will be Queen bees, only mated female bumblebees survive the winters buried a few cm down in the earth. They emerge from hibernation only when the earth has been warmed by the sun

Bees are very important pollinators and they are responsible for at least one third of the food we eat. They are under attack from mites and pesticides 

The Great Yellow Bumblebee is responsible for the healthy Machair plants in the Outer Hebrides, its a pity they don't survive here. 

A good source of information is the book ` A Naturalist's Shetland' and an excellent leaflet  report any sightings to Paul Harvey at Shetland Amenity Trust

Thursday 20 August 2020

Shetland Migration

 Migration has started with the odd rare bird turning up. Several Red Backed Shrike, Barred and Blyth Reed Wabler, Crossbills , Citrine wagtail and Iceterine warblers have been seen in last couple of days.

A good movement of waders with a few Black Tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Sanderling, Knot. Over 200 Golden Plover flew over the house this morning


The long stay Long Tailed Skua is still down at Dalsetter as well. A large movement of Meadow pipit was seen over Lerwick late on Wednesday.

Meadow Pipit showing more orange than usual

On the other side, Fulmar chicks are still in the nest and i found a house sparrow collecting food for young. 

We have had several Basking Shark spotted at various coastal areas, including 3 at Eshaness. 

I managed to catch up with one at Levenwick on Wednesday, just a pity the wether was over cast. It was estimated  to be at least 15 feet long.

It spent a good hour working one spot, twisting and turning just below the surface. These are filter feeders, swimming up and down mouth wide open.

A few Minkie whales and Porpoise have also been seen but no Killer Whales for a few weeks. Plenty of seals down at Sandwick and Levenwick.

Monday 17 August 2020

Shetland in close up

A selection of Shetland insects and flowers

Helina Impuncta

Potato Capsid

Smoky Wainscot
Cross- leaved Heath

Devilsbit Scabious


Autumn Gentian

Counted 178 in a small area

Bell Heather