The Machair

Machair
Machair

Often mis-pronounced by celebrities, the machair (the “ch” is hard, like in “loch”) is a crucial part of the ecosystem across the Hebrides. It is the inspiration behind the Machair Herbal Infusion.

GYBB queen on knapweed, John Bowler
GYBB queen on knapweed, John Bowler

Machair comprises sandy soil running down to the shore and is an incredibly rich habitat, often carpeted with stunning wild flowers in the spring and summer. Grazing by sheep and cattle in the winter allow this landscape to flourish.

One of the rarest bees in the UK makes its home on the machair – the Great Yellow Bumblebee.

The great yellow bumblebee (GYBB) can be identified by its yellow or yellowish-brown colouring with a distinct band of black hairs between the wings. Its distribution in the UK has declined by 80% in the last century. Where once it lived throughout the UK, great yellow bumblebees are now only found in some islands of Scotland, and Caithness and Sutherland in northern mainland Scotland.

The principal causes of decline are the loss of flower-rich meadows and the intensification of farming and grazing practices. With its expanses of machair habitat, wildlife-friendly land management and lack of competition from non-native insects, the Isle of Tiree is home to one of the largest populations of great yellow bumblebees in the UK, making it an important refuge nationally. But even here, the bees appear to be struggling. Find out more about the projects to support the Great Yellow Bumblebee in Tiree by visiting their website – https://friendsoftiree.org.uk/bees .