Are you thinking that there’s no wildlife worth looking for now that September is here? All the good stuff has migrated or is starting to hide itself away? Rubbish. There’s a very special little bee that you might like to look for right now…
The Ivy Bee. Note the distinctive stripy abdomen
You might remember that last year around this time I asked you to “look at ivy flowers for bees“, well I’m doing it again. The yearly hunt for Ivy Bees (Colletes hederae) has started. Looking quite similar to a honey bee, wasp or hoverfly, you might think they would be hard to spot but once you get your eye in it’s eeeeeeeeeesy. Even I can spot them!
Ivy bee on the right – Wasp on the left
Here’s what the Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society says, the Ivy Bee was “recorded as new to Britain in 2001 when Ian Cross discovered specimens at Langton Matravers in Dorset. Since then, the bee has spread across much of southern England, and is now extremely plentiful in some coastal localities, and increasingly, inland. Peak activity matches the flowering period of its key pollen forage plant, IVY (Hedera helix), and the species is on the wing from mid-September until early November. This makes it the last solitary bee species to emerge each year.”
They are on the march north… so this year they could be ANYWHERE!
Here’s a map of their distribution as at 21 Sept 2009:
Map courtesy of BWARS
This year I was on a mission. There was one particular Ordance Survey grid square where they hadn’t been found. Grid SU. Near to Wimborne and near to where I live! So I went on a serious “Bee Hunt” while doing my shopping (well you have to do more than one thing at once don’t you?).
First I found them in square SZ (only 70m away from the SU square… very annoying!)
The SZ bees – two at a time – I’m just getting greedy now!
Then I found them down the road from the farmshop at grid ST at Pamphill nr Wimborne (OK, this is just taking the mickey now!)
At ST. Ivy bee on the left – Hoverfly on the right
Finally I found “one” in grid SU, in the centre of Wimborne town while I was going to Somerfield to do my weekly shop. It was behind a toy shop on some ivy flowers that were climbing up a fence. It’s really weird where you can find interesting wildlife when you really start looking. Find the habitat (ivy!) and you might find the bee!
Finally at SU. See the ivy at the far end above the fence
Loads of shoppers watched puzzled as I climbed onto a nearby brick seat to get a photo (they all scarpered when I took this photo!). Did I care… naaaa! I’d got the little bugger!
Finally the SU grid square Ivy Bee!
If you’d like to look for Ivy Bees have a look at the excellent page on the BWARS website here, and if you see any (or even just one) send your records to Stuart Roberts (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also download a one-page PDF here that you can print off and keep handy, telling you all about them. You could be the one to add a new dot to the Ivy Bee map!