Lucky nature fanatics were treated to a remarkable glimpse of the UK’s rarest bumblebee while trudging through Crossness

The nature reserve, situated in Thamesmead, held their popular bee walk event on Tuesday, August 6, to spot the shrill carder bee, which is named after the high-pitched buzz they emit.

The insect, which has a distinctive grey-green body and a black band across its body (or thorax for the smart ones), has lost much of its habitat to human development and can now be found at just seven sites across the country, including the Thames Gateway, in which Crossness is located.

More than a dozen people attended the walk, where they were given nets, collecting pots, a hand lens and identification charts to catch and recognise insects on the site, which is also home other species including the rare brown-banded carder bee.

Reserve manager Karen Sutton said: "It was a long day in hot sunshine but everybody was happy to get the target species and many more besides.

"They even got some fascinating species such as the spined mason bee, a solitary bee that nests in empty snail shells, and a pair of conopid flies, which parasitize bumblebees.

"It was a fascinating day learning about the ecology of the humble bumble, what factors are causing their decline, why they are so important for pollination, and what we can all do to help reverse their decline.”

The walk at Crossness was led by Rosie Earwaker, project officer for Buglife’s “Back from the Brink” shrill carder bee conservation project.

"It was very exciting to see some of these bumblebees at Crossness recently, along with the brown-banded carder bee, which is another conservation priority species," she said.

"The Thames Gateway is a hotspot for scarce bumblebees but with increasing pressure from development it is even more important to safeguard sites where these species do occur.

"Crossness Nature Reserve and southern marshes provide valuable habitat for the shrill carder bee and a host of other bees and invertebrates," she continued.