Rare bumblebee recorded in Dublin park after 88-year hiatus

Wednesday 18 June 2014 21.50
The bee does not make its own nest, but invades a host bee's nest
The bee does not make its own nest, but invades a host bee's nest

A rare bumblebee, not seen in Ireland in 88 years, has been recorded in a Dublin park.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre confirmed that the Southern cuckoo bumblebee has been sighted for the first time since 1926.

The discovery was made at St Enda's Park in Rathfarnam, where Eddie Hill, a gardener and recorder for the National Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme, spotted the strange looking bee.

He took photographs and sent two specimens on to the National Biodiversity Data Centre where they confirmed it was the rare species.

Mr Hill said: "I've been interested in bumblebees for the past two years after learning how to identify them at a National Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme workshop. 

"With my work, I'm in St Enda's most days, so when I saw these bees pollinating flowers in the park, I just knew they were different."

The Southern cuckoo bumblebee was last recorded near Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, in 1926 by Arthur Wilson Stelfox, a renowned entomologist working in the National Museum in Dublin at the time. 

The bee does not make its own nest, but invades a host bee's nest, kills the queen, then uses the host workforce to rear its young. 

It will always have a much lower population size than its host, making it more vulnerable to extinction.

Dr Tomás Murray, project co-ordinator of the Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme, said it could be that it almost died out, or maybe it was simply rare but overlooked.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan has also welcomed the discovery of a rare moss previously presumed extinct in Ireland.

Waved-fork moss had been presumed extinct due to loss of its midland raised bog habitat but has been rediscovered on Clara Bog in Co Offaly.

This is the first time the moss has been seen in Ireland since 1960 and the first ever record from Clara Bog with other previous known locations all being lost due to peat extraction.