Sanding up for Essex’s insects

Sanding up for Essex’s insects

Essex Wildlife Trust takes action for insects in Essex by creating new vital sand bank habitat at their Two Tree Island nature reserve

A healthy ecosystem and most life on Earth depends on the presence of insects. They pollinate our plants, disperse our seeds, cycle nutrients, maintain soil structure, predate organisms and provide a major food source for many species. Insect populations have declined dramatically with studies showing that the UK has lost more than 50% of its insects since 1970. Essex Wildlife Trust is working to stop the decline of insects throughout the county; gathering data, encouraging local action, lobbying Government and creating new well-managed habitats to ensure insects can thrive again.

Recently at their Two Tree Island nature reserve, near Leigh-on-Sea, the conservation charity has been working on the creation of new sand bank habitats for the county’s invertebrates as part of The Wildlife Trust’s Action for Insects campaign. The Trust’s Two Tree Island nature reserve was once a landfill site that has now been developed into a mosaic of scrub and grassland habitat that connects to the adjoining intertidal mudflats and saltmarsh. It is a reserve that is an essential habitat for Thames Terrace invertebrates, one of the most important and threatened invertebrate assemblages in Britain. The site is also home to rare species like the shrill carder and the brown-banded carder bee.

To enhance the reserve for insects, the conservation charity constructed six, south facing sand banks across the whole reserve, each consisting of 40 tonnes of locally sourced Thanet Sand. Research has shown that bare ground, or partially vegetated ground is required by many burrowing and basking invertebrate species. They have constructed sand banks closer to the saltmarsh, which will provide potential nesting habitat for the rare sea aster mining bee as its food plant, sea aster is found on the adjacent saltmarsh. Other sand banks are located by areas of grassland which include a variety of flowering plants, including knapweed, clover and bird’s-foot trefoil, which will be a key site for foraging bees.

Tiffany Rogerson, the Trust’s Landscape Conservation Area Assistant, said: “We are so glad to be working on a project to take action for insects in the county and we are thrilled to see the banks have already been colonised by mining bees and wasps. We’d like to thank the Ida Davis Family Foundation for funding the project and Leigh Marina for their practical support.”

The Ida Davis Family Foundation, said: “We are very happy to support the bee bank project at Essex Wildlife Trust’s Two Tree Island nature reserve to help save species like the shrill carder bee from extinction. Ida, after whom our foundation is named, loved both living in Leigh and nature. She would have been delighted to support such a project in her local community”

To find out more about Essex Wildlife Trust’s Two Tree Island nature reserve and plan you visit to take time to watch the fascinating assemblage of insects using this newly created habitat, please visit their reserve page.