Hunt for a Special Bee

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…

Colletes Hederae Ivy Bee SZ 24-09-2009 16-08-9

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!

Colletes Hederae Ivy Bee SZ 24-09-2009 16-08-10

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!)

Colletes Hederae Ivy Bee SZ 24-09-2009 16-08-16

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!)

Pamphill bees  25-09-2009 12-18-16

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!

Wimborne by millrace behind toyshop  25-09-2009 13-10-40

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!

Wimborne by millrace behind toyshop  25-09-2009 13-14-30

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 ( 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!

26 thoughts on “Hunt for a Special Bee

  1. Pingback: Is this Colletes hederae - Wild About Britain

      • Lovely post Jane and great shots! My favourite old ivy was sadly chopped a few months ago. I’ll have to find another to check out and they are flowering already even this north. I wonder how fast they will get to Hull though!

      • Hi again Jane – Sorry to say I’ve been to the BWARS site several times trying to build up a head of steam to report the sighting, but am just toooooooooo daunted by the recording requirements/ process. I wonder if the Stuart/ eucera you mentioned in WAB is the same as, as mentioned on the BWARS info page – and if so, wld it be enough to send an email and attachment to him, do you think, please?

  2. Hi Africa. Not sure they will reach Hull in 09 – but you never know, still worth looking at what’s on the ivy flowers. Our flowers are only just coming out – but already lots on them. Butterflies, hoverflies, bees, wasps and of course ivy bees!

  3. Hi again Jane, hope you’ve had a good ‘summer’. Great photos, hope you get lots of sightings. I guess this bee won’t get up my way although we do have the world’s first bee sanctuary up this way so maybe…

    It’s great that you’ve promoted this. Now you have me wondering what may visit my ivy flowers this year. I think I’ve seen blackbirds at them in the past.

    Wishing you a good week 😀

    • Hi Shirl. Great to hear from you. I expect you will still get some interesting visitors to your ivy. I’ve also seen loads of hoverflies, honeybees, wasps and butterflies on the ivy here. Hope the sun is shining for you! 🙂

  4. Message for DillybytheSea. Yes. Eucera on WAB is the same as Drop him an attachment and email. He will love to hear what you have found. I know how daunting it is when you first send in a record. I’m a complete “recording novice” and only did it for the first time last year. I expect he will spot your post on WAB anyway! Jane

  5. Jane
    Thanks for encouraging Dilly to make contact. She has emailed me and given perfect data with a wonderful photo to support her records. Why don’t you put up the Information sheet pdf on your site for download? I would be delighted if as many people as possible had access to it. Cheers, Stuart

  6. Wow, great posting here Jane, I had no idea about these bees. I’ll look out for them whenever I can. They have quite a distinctive pattern on them. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Hi Jane, a very interesting piece on late nectar plant insect interaction, keep an eye out for a radio programme I’m making in a week or so on the Ivy and its importance for late species – sadly the Ivy Bee hasn’t arrived where we’re going but it’ll get a mention. Good posting as always.

  8. Pingback: A Walk to Divonne | Song for Jasmine

    • Thanks for your sighting Scrumpyboy. I’ve never seen that many – must be quite a sight! If you haven’t already done so, could you let Stuart know about this so that he can add the sighting to his BWARS UK distribution map. His email is Many thanks. Jane

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