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LATEST: 'Extinct' Maidstone bee found in country parkland

Friday 17th September 2021

A RARE bee species presumed extinct for almost a hundred years has been rediscovered alive and well on the North Downs.

The find came to light when Kent County Council carried out an ecology survey of Trosley County Park.

The species, known as the Maidstone bee (andrena polita) because it was only ever located in the Medway valley and a few places in Europe, has now been confirmed by the Natural History Museum.

Entomologist Dr Grant Hazlehurst made the discovery of the insect which was last recorded in the 1930s and had been presumed extinct, last year.

How it appears that the bee, which is solitary and does not live in colonies, was alive all along, merely clinging to survival in plain sight.

Dr Hazlehurst, of Bromley said: “It hasn't been seen in Britain since 1934 and it was assumed to be extinct. It had continued to be found in Europe but it was rare.

"What's interesting here is that presumably it's been present all these years but only with a very small population.

"As far as I can tell it's only in one specific location, so it's right on the edge of extinction."

While Dr Hazlehurst is no stranger to discovering new insect species, he says he was particularly struck by the discovery.

"I think this is more interesting," he added. "A lot of the time when you find something new, the next thing is you find it everywhere. In this case we've found something rare that has been rare for over 100 years.

"This is something which was presumed to be extinct and which might well be again in a couple of years."

He warned that a bad winter or a fire could “knock out the population”.

D Hazlehurst added: “One of the biggest threats to it would be if someone put a honey bee hive nearby. There's a growing concern about honey bees and their impact on indigenous bees; one because they carry viruses but, secondly, they out-compete anything else."