Old lags of this blog will recall me extolling the virtues of ivy in a previous post, The Ivy is A-buzz. It is around this time of the year that the ivy becomes rather interesting and we can don our pith helmets and go on an ivy safari.
While most plants are hunkering down ready for winter, ivy produces flowers in the autumn. These are very rich in nectar, 49% sugar by some estimates, thereby attracting a range of insects. In order to produce flowers the ivy has to be allowed to climb up a structure such as a tree or other garden structure.
If you are lucky and the weather has been kind, you might find late season butterflies feasting on your ivy flowers; these could include commas, red admirals, speckled woods and holly blues. The latter also lay their eggs in ivy, which is the food source for its caterpillars.
Another insect that I was looking out for, but didn’t find, was the ivy bee, Colletes hederae. This bee was first recorded in the UK in 2001 and is most prevalent in the south of the country. There is more information about the bee and how to record any sightings on the BWARS website here.
So, what did I find? Honey bees and wasps were the most obvious stripy visitors.
I also found some drone hoverflies, Eristalis tenax. Named after their resemblance to drone bees, they are important pollinators in their own right. They do not sting, but the assumption that they do no doubt offers them protection from potential predators. I recommend visiting Ryan Clark’s ecology blog for information and lovely photographs of pollinators, but particularly check out his post on hoverflies here.
As well as providing nectar for insects and winter berries for birds, ivy also provides a good source of cover, or a sunbed, for other critters. For instance, I spotted this spotless harlequin ladybird.
Also wandering through the leaves was this shield bug. Kindly identified, via Twitter, as a gorse shield bug by Sinéad @chonchoille81 something I hadn’t considered as we have no gorse around here. This is its late summer colouring. They will also feed on members of the broom plant family. I have blogged about green shield bugs previously.
So there ends our safari. I hope that you will allow some ivy to grow in a patch of garden or up a wall then you can go on your own safari and let us know what you find. Remember, as with all explorations, “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.”
This quote has been attributed to Chief Si’ahl (Seattle) of the Duwamish tribe in 1854. Although there is some controversy over the translation, it is still a good piece of advice.