Norvic Philatelics - GB New Stamps and Special Postmarks

Bees of Britain - 18 August 2015

Bees are our unacknowledged partners and ancient allies, vital in the pollination of food crops, keeping farms in business and in helping parks, gardens and the countryside to thrive. Yet bees are in decline in their numbers and their range. The plight of bees is in the press every week. 

Royal Mail is issuing these stamps to educate
customers and mail senders and receivers about the huge variety of British bees, their vital importance and to promote moves for bee protection.

Royal Mail is not promoting any particular conservation organisation in connection with this issue, but if you are interested in bee species and their identification, and bee conservation visit the Bee Cause website of Friends of the Earth.

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Set of 6 stamps showing Bees. 
2nd class - Scabious Bee, 1st class - Great Yellow Bumblebee, £1 - Northern Coletes Bee.
£1.33 - Bilberry Bumblebee, £1.52 - Large Mason Bee,  £2.25 - Potter Flower Bee.

Miniature sheet of 4 'bee' stamps. 

The western Honeybee. 1st class: Waggle Dance and Pollination; £1.33: Making Honey and Tending Young.
Retail booklet of 2 bee and 4 definitive stamps.

Retail booklet of 4 x 1st class red Machin definitive stamps (security coded M15l MCIL) and 2 x 1st class Great Yellow Bumblebee stamps.

Cylinder numbers on Bee retail booklet.
Booklet cylinder numbers are W1, left to right:

cyan, magenta, yellow, Royal Mail red,
iridescent, gold, black, and phosphor.

As well as the Queen's head and value on the stamps,
the selvedge is also gold, with underlying orange/brown
shaded to the foot of the booklet.


The six UK bee species chosen for the sheet stamps give representation of all parts of the UK, different habitats and the different kinds of bee species that breed in the UK (two bumblebee species and four ‘solitary’ bees). Each bee is shown on or near a flower appropriate for the species of bee.   The miniature sheet is devoted to the honey bee.

The stamps in detail

Scabious Bee (Andrena hattorfiana) – 2nd Class - Shown on Field Scabious Knautia arvensis
One of the largest solitary bees and a ‘mining bee’. Has declined in range but today South West England is key area. Other populations in East Anglia and South Wales. Lives in sandy or open grassland, and the plant field scabious is essential, as its pollen is used to feed the young larvae. This reinforces the connection between insect and plant, and the interdependence. If populations of one falls, the other suffers decline.

Great Yellow Bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) - 1st Class - Shown on Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
A flagship conservation species for Scotland and at extreme of range now (thought to have declined from 80% of its historic range in the UK). Forages in grassland on clover, vetch and knapweed.

Northern Colletes Bee (Colletes floralis) - £1.00 - Shown on Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)
Recorded in Northern Ireland in 2003 for the first time in 70 years. UK and Irish population represent 50% of global total, so very important. Prefers sandy/coastal environment and forages on range of flowers including carrot and parsley family.

Bilberry Bumblebee (Bombus monticola) - £1.33 - Shown on Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
Concentrated in NE England but also in Wales and SW England. Higher altitude habitats. Forages on bilberry as well as bramble, raspberry, bell heather, sallow and legumes such as clover and bird’s foot trefoil (hence vital in pollinating nitrogen-fixing plants in agriculture).

Large Mason Bee (Osmia xanthomelana) - £1.52 - Shown on Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa)
Britain’s rarest solitary bee and now found only at two sites in Wales. Females collect fresh water from cliffs and use to make mud in the building of nest cells. Forage nectar from horse shoe vetch, bramble and bugle.

Potter Flower Bee (Anthophora retusa) - £1.33 - Shown on Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)
Has declined severely and found in few sites in SE England. A ‘flower bee’ that has appearance of a bumble bee but is solitary. Has a preference for sandy soils such as dunes, cliffs and commons. Forages from ground ivy, vetches, clovers, bird’s foot trefoil.

The Honeybee miniature sheet focuses on the Western honeybee, Apis mellifera, and portray different aspects of apian behaviour: the waggle dance, pollinating, making honey and tending young. A decorative border showing different kinds of flowers completes the miniature sheet.

Bees need pollen for protein and nectar for carbohydrate. Bees feed pollen to their larvae for growth. Honeybees turn nectar into honey by adding enzymes and evaporating the moisture. A honeybee colony may need 120kg of nectar a year to maintain itself through the winter. In its life a honeybee may produce one teaspoonful of honey and fly 800km. A single honey bee may visit 1500 flowers to collect a single load of pollen.

A honeybee’s antennae are 100 times more sensitive to smell than a human. Each eye is made up of 6900 hexagonal cells that can act independently, monitoring light levels and colours and noting position of the sun. They can see in polarised light and so can locate the sun through clouds, and also see in ultraviolet light and hence patterns on flower petals that guide them in to the nectar source.

A returning forager can tell its sisters as to the location of a good pollen and nectar source. First its sisters smell and taste the nectar on the returning bee. Then she shakes her abdomen in the ‘waggle dance’ walking up and down the face of the comb. The amount of shake indicates the flying time the food source is away: the longer the shake the further the distance. Then the dancer can indicate the direction of the food. The bee will’s orientation as it moves forwards and backwards tells the other bees the angle to fly in relation to the sun.

Technical details:
The 37 x 35 mm stamps were designed by Anna Ekelund using illustrations by Richard Lewington. The perf 14 x 14½ stamps are printed by International Security Printers in Lithography.  The PVA-gummed stamps are printed in sheets of 25/50.
The 179 x 74 mm Miniature Sheet was designed by Interabang using illustrations by Amdy English, and contains 37 x 35 mm stamps perforated 14 x 14½ printed by International Security Printers in Lithography. 

All stamp images Royal Mail ©2015 reproduced with permission.

Products available from Royal Mail

Set of 6 stamps, miniature sheet.  Presentation Pack containing set and miniature sheet 

Set of 11 stamp cards  Two First Day Covers   

Special first day of issue postmarks will be shown here. These cannot be obtained after the date of issue; more may be added. Not always to scale.

Official first day postmark for Bees stamps.
Offiical St Bees first day postmark. 
Official St Bees non-pictorial first day postmark.
Pictorial postmarks for British Bees stamp issue.
Ref FD1520TH
Official Bureau postmark
Ref FD1520PL
St Bees official first day of issue postmark
Ref FD1520NP
St Bees non-pictorial first day postmark.
Ref M13529
The British Beekeepers Association, Kenilworth
Ref M13530
Honeysuckle Close, Birmingham

  Two special postmarks for British Bees stamps.
Two postmarks for Bumblebee Consewrvation Trust.
Pictorial postmark showing a bee.
Ref N13532
Celebrating Bees, St Bees.
Ref N13533
Collect British Stamps,York
Ref S13535
Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Stirling
Ref S13536
Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Stirling
Ref L13527 Wax Chandlers Hall, Gresham Street, London EC2V
Two Bee first day postmarks. Three first day postmarks for Bees stamps.

Ref M13540
Honeybourne, Evesham
Ref M13541
Ref N13542
Busy as a bee can be, Hive Brough
Ref N13543
I'd like to be a busy little bee, Workington
Ref N13544
Joney Bee, St Bees
The Bee Cause postmark. <<<<<

Ref L13526
Friends of the Earth The Bee Cause
England, Wales & N. Ireland
London GBFDC Association
Reserved for possible further
postmarks (although this seems unlikely)
Oistmark showing a short-haired bumblebee.

Ref L13548
The Short-Haired
Bumblebee Project,
Dungeness, Romney Marsh

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This page updated 7 August 2015.

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