Sunday 20 October 2019

Can you be the first to report an Ivy Bee in Ireland?

An Ivy Bee foraging on Ivy flowers.
An Ivy Bee foraging on Ivy flowers.

Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

Can you be the first person to report an Ivy Bee in Ireland? That is a question pose by the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford. The Centre documents Ireland's wildlife and biodiversity and experts there reckon that the Ivy Bee seems likely to turn up in Ireland in the near future as our next colonist from abroad.

Bees come in two main kinds: social and solitary. As the names tell us, the social bees, like the Honey Bee and bumblebees, are social in that they live together in large colonies. Solitary bees, on the other hand, are loners that live on their own.

While the social bees are numerous and are very well-known they represent a relatively small number of species. There are far more species of solitary bees but they are not well-known.

The Ivy Bee is a solitary bee about the size of a Honey Bee. Its thorax or 'back' is covered by bright orange-brown hair and its abdomen or rear-end is boldly hooped with prominent orange-yellow hair bands. It flies at this time of year and as its name tells us it feeds mainly on Ivy flowers that are in bloom at present.

The Ivy Bee was first described as a distinctive species in 1993 in southern Europe. It is spreading northwards and is now widespread throughout central and western mainland Europe. In crossed the English Channel and was first recorded in Britain in 2001. It is now found all along the south coast of England and in the London area. It continues to spread north in Britain and is expected to cross the Irish Sea in the near future.

The Ivy Bee nests underground preferably in south-facing banks of light, often sandy, soil with sparse vegetation. Nests have been recorded in people's gardens. Even though they are solitary bees they often nest together in dense aggregations usually associated with nearby large stands of old Ivy.

After mating each female bee digs an underground nest, lays her eggs and stocks the nest with Ivy pollen for the larvae to eat. She plasters the nest to make it waterproof. The adult bees die with the onset of winter. The larvae survive underground to pupate and emerge the following autumn.

If you do spot an Ivy Bee on your local stand of old Ivy please try to take a photograph and e-mail it to the National Biodiversity Data Centre for validation via their website at

Wexford People

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