Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 14:08 UK

Rare bumblebee spotted in county

Red-tailed cuckoo bumblebee
A rare red-tailed cuckoo bumblebee (Pic: Ted Benton)

A rare bumblebee has been officially recorded in Norfolk for the first time in more than four decades.

The red-tailed cuckoo bumblebee has been seen among a colony of more common red-tailed bumblebees on land leased from the Royal Estate at Sandringham.

Natural England has credited the return of the rarely seen bee to the restoration of heathland at its Dersingham Bog National Nature Reserve.

There are now hopes the bee will make a permanent return to the county.

Spectacular creatures

The revival of the population is linked to the growth in red-tailed bumblebee numbers, experts say.

The last recorded sighting of the cuckoo bee (Bombus rupestris) in Norfolk was at Winterton in 1963.

Ash Murray, Natural England's senior reserve manager, said he could not believe his eyes when he spotted the rare find.

He said: "They really are quite spectacular creatures, about an inch long, with shiny black body armour on the thorax to prevent getting stung."

David Richmond, the Norfolk County Recorder for bumblebees, said the sightings gave hope that the bee's recovery in southern England had now spread to Norfolk.

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