A RARE long-horned bee has been found at the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust’s Gilfach nature reserve near Rhayader, in a first for Powys.

The bee was discovered during a Pollinator Training Day being run as part of the Exploring Gilfach Project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Natural Resources Wales.

The rare bee is called Eucera longicornis, but known more commonly as the long-horned bee because of its strangely long antenna.

It is part of the solitary bee family which nest in holes in banks and then crams these holes with pollen from the vetch plants it likes best. This includes plants like ‘eggs and bacon’ and meadow vetchling which are widespread at Gilfach.

“I have seen this bee in the South West of France and its very long antenna are very distinctive, so when one flew past me I recognised it immediately, though I could scarcely believe it,” said Exploring Gilfach project officer Barbara Brown.

Phil Ward, Radnorshire county recorder for invertebrates, explained how nationally scarce this solitary bee is and what an excellent find it is.

“This bee is a Species of Principal Importance because of its huge decline. It needs large areas of flowery habitat and with over 97 per cent loss of such habitat in the 20th century, this has had a huge impact on the long-horned bee population. The nearest known colony to Gilfach is in south Worcestershire and this is the first time it has been found in Powys,” Phil said.

Gilfach Nature Reserve is a prime site for invertebrates because of the wide variety of wildlife habitats from river to meadows, to moorland.

Recently Radnorshire Wildlife Trust hosted a group of expert entomologists who caught more than 300 different moths, beetles, bugs, and hoppers in the meadows and wetlands during the day.

Richard Bellamy, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, added: “When people think of what ‘heritage’ means, they often think of grand old buildings like castles and rolling estates. But Wales is lucky enough to also encompass some beautiful landscapes and containing rare habitats that are home to unique and precious species like this long-horned bee.

“We hope the fantastic work that natural heritage projects like Exploring Gilfach do will help more people realise that looking after our landscape and rare wildlife is also key in preserving and protecting Wales’ diverse heritage.”