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Something amazing is happening in a field in Newchurch – bees, thousands of them of 96 different species recorded so far. From the earliest to emerge in March to the latest in November the Bee Fields are alive and buzzing, but there’s nothing to fear, these are in the main tiny mining bees that burrow into the sandy soil, far too small and preoccupied with their mining to be a threat to anyone. In fact it is a place to visit precisely because it is so wonderful for bees. We’ve all heard the global concerns over collapsing bee numbers, the loss of hives and the increasing threat to crops which we rely on these insects to pollinate for us. To see a site so alive with these same species is a welcome dose of optimism.
The site ranks amongst the most important bee conservation sites on the Island, alongside heavily protected nature reserves that have a national significance. The Isle of Wight is one of the most important places in the UK for its bees and wasps and so the Bee Fields are now of national interest.
Conservation and Management
The Bee Fields were an old sweetcorn field which has been set aside for wildlife. While passing in 2009 we noticed a small colony of a rare bee species Dasypoda hirtipes in one of the fields. This prompted us to raise funds for a more in-depth survey of the site’s hymenoptera (bees and wasps). This work is now complete and the results are staggering: 96 species of bee and wasp of which 23 are nationally rare and 3 completely new to the Island! Thanks to funding from our supporters, raised in partnership with the Isle of Wight Festival (through the ‘Let it Bee’ campaign) and a grant from the AONB’s Sustainable Development Fund, we have cleared more glades for the bees, building special nestbanks and planting new flower species.
Where are the Bee Fields?
PO36 0NL SZ565855
By car park in the free car park behind the Pointer Inn in Newchurch and walk through to the fields behind following footpath NC12
By bus the closest stop is at Amazon World, the Bee Fields are only a 15 minute walk away but is along the road.
On foot you can access the Bee Fields from a variety of footpaths or from the cycle track.
Through this project we have developed a greater insight about the potential of ex-arable sites on greensand (and probably on chalk too) for bees, wasps and other invertebrates. We will continue to work at the Bee Fields to conserve the amazing bee inhabitants. While at the same time we will begin to scout out other potential Bee Havens based on the findings at the Bee Fields. And where necessary work with land owners to protect bee habitat.