Outlook 24
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Return of the Ivy Bees
The colony of Ivy Bees (Colletes hederae) continues to flourish on the north bank of St Mary’s Churchyard, which at first was a small town and is now more like a city! Ivy bees feed exclusively on the nectar of ivy flowers. To cash in on this autumnal bounty, they emerge in mid- to late-September and are on the wing until early November. They are the latest solitary bees to emerge and, because there are so few other bees around at this time of year, are easy to identify, flying and feeding off ivy and burrowing into the sandy north bank of the churchyard, the ideal habitat (pictured below). Like neighbours in a city Unlike the larger honey bee, the ivy bees are solitary, living as neighbours in a city. Each female ivy bee digs her own burrow, and tens or even hundreds of females nest close together in colonies. After mating, a female ivy bee digs her burrow in loose earth or sand, and creates underground chambers. She lays several eggs, which she supplies with pollen as food for the grubs when they hatch. The female dies after a few weeks, but the grubs pupate and become adults, staying underground until autumn, and then they emerge, ready to feed and the cycle begins again. The male bees wait by the burrows for females to return before ambushing them. Many males may attempt to mate with a single female in their quest to sire the next generation. Do they sting? Females can sting, though this is not very painful compared to a wasp, but you would have to really agitate them (e.g. pick them up and squeeze them) to make them do this. Males do not sting, and the vast majority of the bees in the so-called swarm are male. Make sure you come and have a look next year! Simon Morris Photo of Ivy Bee: FLPA /Alamy