For a few weeks in September and October, and sometimes as late as early November, ivy comes into flower. Mix sunshine, shelter, golden-yellow, pollen-rich flowers and a heady scent and you have an irresistible insect magnet. Ivy flowers in the sunshine quite literally hum with life.
In my garden what initially attracted me to look more closely at the feet deep ivy that adorns, and possible holds up, one old wall were the butterflies. Not quite clouds of butterflies but still the best show of red admirals and commas I have seen this year and with them a couple of painted ladies which seem to have been in short supply this summer.
Ivy flowers seem irresistible to commas and red admirals but look more closely and the flowers are busy with many smaller insect visitors, which like the larger butterflies are drawn here by a rich autumn bonanza of pollen and nectar.
Like many people interested in wildlife I can readily recognise most butterflies, some dragonflies and a few beetles. But that’s about it! With apologies to better entomologists here is my beginners’ guide to insects visiting ivy flowers.
- Butterflies –
let’s start with the easy group and at least in my garden it’s red admirals, commas and painted ladies that can’t resist an ivy feast.
- Honey bees –
strangely bumblebees seem largely to ignore the ivy but honeybees delight in its yellow pollen and that’s the clue to recognise them. If it’s bee-like and flying away with a load of pollen attached to its leg it’s a honeybee. The proper name for this area on the bee’s leg is pollen basket.
- Wasps –
- Ladybirds –
perhaps our best known group of beetles! The ladybirds on my garden ivy were all harlequins and they did seem to be feeding on the pollen. Do other ladybirds do this?
- Hoverflies –
- Flies –
Why not do your own ivy watch this autumn and see if my observations tally with your own. All you need is a sunny day, a few minutes of time, and a patch of old ivy decked in sunny golden globes.
Enjoy your autumn insect watch!