Well, look at that, Ivy (hedera helix) might just be Ireland’s biodiversity’s underdog. It’s like a bustling supermarket for our critter friends, especially those late bloomers who’d be caught without a snack otherwise. When autumn sees an end and winter comes a-knockin’, Ivy doesn’t turn them away—it lays out a berry buffet for the birds when there’s nothing else on the menu. But here’s the catch, Ivy doesn’t give away its goodies to just anyone; it’s got to mature, grow big and strong, and then it’s like, “Alright, everyone, pull up a seat at the Ivy table!” So remember, sometimes we need to let nature do its thing, even if it means allowing Ivy to throw the wildest biodiversity bash in town.
Ivy clings to trees like a relentless ex-partner lurking in your social media feed, refusing to let go, a botanical stalker. You’ll find her all over Ireland, making stone walls, old buildings and trees her canvas. Armed with these sucker-like aerial roots, she doesn’t simply twirl and twine, she clings to any surface, like a bunch of leeches crawling on young kids fresh out of the river. Tenacious if you try to remove it, it plays for keeps. Unfazed by the shade and flourishing beneath the protective cloak of overhanging trees, Ivy thrives in all types of environments. Yet this plant particularly loves a rich, moist soil.
Contrary to myths, Ivy is more of a courteous houseguest than a destructive force, posing only a minor threat with its weight, as solid walls and sturdy trees stand their ground. Its virtues go beyond aesthetics, some birds find in it their sanctuary, and nest, while other insects call it home for its sweet autumn feast.
In the midst of the decline of our beloved Irish bees, there’s a newcomer in town attempting to break the mould. Meet the Ivy Bee (colletes hederae), a British expat who decided to call Ireland home for the first time. It’s like a breath of fresh air for the bee-loving community!
The debut performance was a picturesque sighting at the Raven Nature Reserve, captured by the keen-eyed wildlife photographer and macro enthusiast, Jim Kenny. Just imagine the sheer joy and surprise when he realised he’d stumbled upon something unique. After a few snapshots and some expert consultation, it was official—this was the Ivy Bee’s grand entrance into the Emerald Isle.
Now, what’s so special about this Ivy Bee, you might ask?
Well, it’s not your everyday bee; it’s a solitary species, slightly bigger than the regular honeybee. Picture a ginger thorax and striking orange-yellow stripes on its abdomen, a real fashionista of the bee world. It’s a late bloomer, feeding on the nectar of Ivy flowers from early September to November, just when these plants decide to flaunt their beauty. The Ivy Bee has set up camp to stay.
In a country already boasting a bustling bee community with a hundred different species, the arrival of Ivy Bee is like an unexpected guest who’s come to join the party in the liveliest of ways.
Irish pollinators have been facing some tough times lately, with a third of wild bee species threatened with extinction. It’s a crisis, but the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan has been working to give these little buzzers a fighting chance since 2015. And now, with the Ivy Bee’s arrival, it’s like nature itself is pitching in to help our pollinators survive and thrive, a gentle reminder that when we open our eyes to the wonders of the natural world, there are still surprises waiting to be unravelled.
Looking to make a difference for our beloved bees?
Visit https://greensodireland.ie/saveasod/ to explore ways to contribute to Irish biodiversity conservation with Green Sod Ireland.
Jones, C. (2012). Ivy (Hedera helix). Ireland’s Wildlife. https://irelandswildlife.com/ivy-hedera-helix/
Fitzpatrick, U. (2021). Naturalists buzzing as New bee arrives in Ireland – National Biodiversity Data Centre. https://biodiversityireland.ie/naturalists-buzzing-as-new-bee-arrives-in-ireland/
All-Ireland Pollinator Plan (2023). https://pollinators.ie/
Photos by Rory MacCanna: https://www.flickr.com/people/maccannarory/