Chouet’s Orange-legged furrow bees could be at risk

Barry Wells - Pollinator Project co-founder

Bee species that are rare in Guernsey could be at risk if quarrying starts at Chouet headland.

Our founder and local bee expert Barry Wells said: ‘While modern quarrying does factor in environmental concerns and a bit of off-setting measures, if quarrying at Chouet goes ahead, there’s still a risk of losing important pollinating insects including rare bees that are probably only found on this headland,’ he said.

The Pollinator Project is concerned for the viability of two bee populations at Chouet headland should plans progress to begin quarrying there.

The bee species found on the headland include the Potter flower bee (anthophora retusa), which is now extremely rare in the UK, but widespread at Chouet, and the orange-legged furrow bee (lasioglossum xanthopus), which is very rare and declining in the UK.

The Environment & Infrastructure (E&I) committee has decided – by a majority – to recommend the establishment of a new quarry at the Vale headland, once the current quarry at Les Vardes has been exhausted, which is expected to be in 2023.

In its policy letter, the committee admits that the plan would result in ‘unavoidable localised ecological and environmental impacts’ but argues that this can be offset by measures elsewhere to enhance biodiversity. E&I president Lindsay De Sausmarez has said she would like to see off-setting measures – known as biodiversity net gain – being focused on the immediate area as far as possible.

Quarrying company Ronez has verbally committed to protect the perimeter of the site, along the public coastal footpaths – which may protect the bee habitats – unless they are disturbed by the rock blasting noise, dust and vibrations.

Mr Wells agrees: ‘I think that if we can preserve the habitat around the periphery of the headland, which should be possible, these insects will survive,’ he said. ‘But I am  concerned that the impact on pollinators may be difficult to mitigate if this precaution is not taken.’

‘Some people naively think bees will just move, but they live at that site because it’s best for them and if machinery destroys their nests, that may wipe out an already precious bee population,’ he said.

‘We need to protect those areas that are vital for wildlife’.

The Pollinator Project has also requested that the environmental impact assessment report covers invertebrates and takes into account the local knowledge of the sighting of these bees – not recorded anywhere else in Guernsey.

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