Amazing Ivy Bees!

Dear Readers, I know I promised that I wouldn’t mention ivy bees again, but last week I was contacted by reader Phillip Buckley. Here’s what he said:

“We’ve had hundreds, nay, thousands of these bees in our front lawn for 4 or 5 years around this time of year, and I now know what they are thanks to your post.  I always thought it odd that I never saw one on any of the many nearby flowers (and thought they were being pretty rubbish ‘bees’ as a result) but never thought to look at the ivy encrusted old stone wall at the front of our road.  Right now, there are so many cruising all over our lawn at a height of just one or two inches that it is frankly scary to walk through them and even more impossible to mow the lawn!  I read that the males don’t or can’t sting but the females will if annoyed – my wife isn’t prepared to test that theory and has had them climb up inside her trouser legs so now always tucks her trouser bottoms into her socks when gardening.  In previous years they’ve mainly built their nests in the vertical cut edge of the lawn but this year they’re also all over the surface of the lawn as witnessed by the hundreds of piles of sifted soil.  They also spend a lot of their time exhibiting the frenzied mating behaviour you describe.  This all lasts for a few short weeks and then, suddenly, they’re gone for another year.  I have a few photographs although it’s difficult to capture the shear density of them and can’t put them up on this reply panel anyhow.  We won’t be removing the ivy anytime soon as we think it’s all that’s holding our stone wall together so I guess we’ll be sharing our space for a few more years yet!?”

Well, clearly I had to investigate further, and Phillip kindly sent me some photos. He and his wife are obviously great friends to nature, because what they have going on in their garden is a scene of bee-abundance that is vanishingly rare these days.

Below you can see a fine bank of ivy that no doubt the bees will use for nectar and pollen.

These are the nests at the edge of the lawn…

Here is the lawn itself….

And here are some male bees forming a mating ball in their excitement…

Ivy bees going about their business…..

And most wonderful of all, here’s a short film that gives you some idea of their abundance.

Honestly, who needs to go to the Serengeti when there are wildlife spectacles like this? As Phillip says, in a few weeks it will all be over for another year, and trousers can be untucked and lawn-mowers taken out of the shed. If only we could all be so understanding of the needs of the creatures that we share our space with, the world would be a much nicer place.

8 thoughts on “Amazing Ivy Bees!

  1. sllgatsby

    Wow! So amazing to see so many little nests in one place! I am grateful that they are so respectful of their bees.

    For a few summers, the moss on the edges of my biggest concrete bird bath was absolutely mobbed by bees of all kinds, but mostly honey bees. Sometimes I could count 25-30 at one time, drinking water from that was wicked up by the moss. I suspect that someone in my area was keeping a hive, but didn’t have as many flowers or as much available water as I did. But this last summer, I saw hardly any, which makes me kind of sad. The birds are happy though, as they avoided that bird bath when there were so many bees! I had to get a few other baths that had no moss to accommodate them.

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  2. Anonymous

    Wonderful info from your reader with the photos making the sheer numbers and vigorous behaviour of the bees clear. What kind of soil is under the lawn? Quite light, I think, unlike London clay.

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    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Phillip lives in Somerset, so I’m not quite sure what the soil is like, but they are setting up home right along the south coast, so maybe they’re very good at digging…

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    2. Anonymous

      We are on a base layer of clay but there seems to be a decent thickness of loamy topsoil on the top – put down many years before we or the bees arrived! Judging by the sandy colour and texture of their excavations, they’re finding some sand like soil in there.

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