Tuesday 10 October 2023

Ivy bees in Hull

 I have spent some time watching mature Ivies lately. It is Ivy peak flowering season, and the couple last days have been warm and sunny, bringing the insects out, the ivies humming with insect activity. Droneflies, Red Admirals, Comma, Wasps, honeybees are attracted to flowering bees. I was actually looking for Green Mesh Weavers, on an Ivy in an untarmaced tenfoot (alleys between houses) when I noticed two stripy bees rummaging around the leaf litter at the bottom of the ivy. I couldn't believe they were Ivy Bees, Colletes hederae! I have previously seen Ivy Bees in east Yorkshire, at North Ferriby and at Flamborough, but I thought we wouldn't get them in Hull due to our clay soils, as this bee needs loose soils for nesting. 

Two bees exploring the soil under the ivy, this is probably loose enough and sunny enough for a nest site?

A winner from climate change

Ivy Bees started colonising the UK from 2001, after expanding in northern Europe, and in the last couple of decades its distribution range has rapidly expanded northwards, with the first Scottish records coming in 2021. The mail pollen source for its larvae is Ivy, and the bee flight period coincides with the flowering season of ivy, from September to early November, with a single brood. They are solitary bees but they tend to nest together, sometimes forming large nesting aggregations in suitable habitat. Females will excavate a nest and line the walls with a cellophane-like substance, which explains another name of the bee, Cellophane Ivy Bee. Ivy pollen is brought to the nest and an egg is laid atop a mound of pollen, before the cell is sealed and another load of pollen is collected for the next egg.

One of the Ivy Bees near the ground after some exploring.
A female laden with pollen having a rest to clean its tongue.
A foraging female showing the banded abdomen. This bee is relatively large, the size of a honey bee, with orange hairs on the thorax, and contrasting broad buff bands in the abdomen, unlike its close relative the Sea Aster bee, which is smaller and has a white banded abdomen. Habitat, timing and foraging flowers can also help distinguish these bees.

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