Northern Ireland's Priority Species

Lasioglossum nitidiusculum – a bee

 
Lasioglossum nitidiusculum

Lasioglossum nitidiusculum (Kirby)
Family: Halictidae

This is a small dark and rather hairless bee. It has been recorded from just one site in Northern Ireland.

In brief

  • A solitary bee, each female building and provisioning an individual nest
  • The nests are built in well-drained soils
  • Assess as Vulnerable in Ireland
  • Known from just one site in Northern Ireland, Killard Point NNR, Co. Down
  • The adults gather pollen and nectar almost exclusively from heather

Species description
A small species of solitary bee with an elongate body typical of this genus. The body is dark with metallic reflections and a sparse covering of pale hairs. The legs are orange-brown. There are several very similar-looking bees so identification is not possible in the field.

Life cycle
Bees are insects which construct nests which they provision with honey and nectar. They are some of the most fascinating of insects and, because of their role in pollination, some of the most important. The best known bees are the social species honey and bumblebees but most are non-social, solitary species. Each female solitary bee constructs and provisions an individual nest. The nests of separate females may be built close together but there is no cooperation between them. There is also no worker caste in the solitary species, the work of building and provisioning the nest is done entirely by the female. Each nest typically will comprise a small number of cells provisioned with a mixture of nectar and pollen. The female lays a single egg per cell and the larva eats the stored food before pupating within the cell. A single female may construct several nests in her short lifetime, but she will not overlap with her offspring and the next generation. Male bees have only the single function of mating with a female. Nests of solitary species may be made directly in the ground or in a plant stem. Some species take over existing holes, for example the excavation of a wood boring beetle, whilst others create their own.
The adult flight season is long April to September. The nests are built in the ground. Adults forage from a wide variety of flowers but it mainly favours yellow composites.

Similar species
This is one of 11 species of Lasioglossum bees on the Irish list. They are all similar in appearance and identification of the individual species requires close examination and expert knowledge.

How to see this species
This is an unobtrusive species of bee. The females do not nest together and they forage from a number of plant species. Areas of bare, well-drained soils close to flower-rich habitats should be searched for nests. This is where the adults will be most active. Foraging bees will be seen on flowers but only in warm and sunny conditions.

Current status
There is just one recent record of this species from Killard Point, Co. Down in July 2004

Why is this species a priority in Northern Ireland?
This is a rare and declining species of bee in Ireland. It was assessed as Vulnerable on the Irish bee red list. There have been few recent records and it has not been seen in many areas of Ireland where it previously occurred, including Northern Ireland.

Threats/Causes of decline
The habits of this species in Ireland are not well understood and nor are the threats and causes of its decline. It has been recorded from a variety of habitats and like many other species of Irish bee, it is likely to have declined with the loss of areas of permanent flower-rich habitat.

Conservation of this species

Current action

  • Killard is designated as an ASSI and is included in the Stranford Lough SAC

Proposed objectives/actions

  • Survey suitable sites to locate extant populations and, if any are found, ensure the population is maintained

What you can do
Discovering surviving populations of the bee is essential. There is also a need to gather Information on its habitat and ecology in Northern Ireland. This requires skilled observers and learning how to identify the species of Irish bee is a way you as an individual can make a valuable contribution. The decline of all species of bees should concern us as they are primary pollinators of many wild plants.

Further information

Links
National Biodiversity Data Centre

Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society

Photographs of Wild bees and wasps

Literature
Baldock, D. (2008). The Bees of Surrey. Surrey Wildlife Trust, Woking.

This is a good illustrated account of the bees of Surrey, which includes most of the Irish bees
Fitzpatrick ., Murray T.E., Byrne A., Paxton R.J. and Brown M.J.F. (2006). Regional Red List of Irish Bees, Report to National Parks and Wildlife Service (Ireland) and Environment and Heritage Service (N. Ireland).

Text written by:
Brian Nelson