Ivy flowers and honey bees

A honey bee on a cluster of ivy flowers
A honey bee on a cluster of ivy flowers

Autumn flowering ivy is much loved by honey bees. It is also popular with lots of other pollinating insects, especially flies and wasps. Later in the year, the flowers will give way to the dark purpley-black berries that blackbirds love to eat.

But, in a garden, ivy can also be incredibly destructive. Ivy has aerial roots, it doesn’t just twine and scramble over  things, it actually grows roots into them. Consequently, it can cause extensive and costly damage to walls and roofs.

Ivy grows quickly and seeds freely. So, if you do have it in your garden, or are thinking of introducing it to benefit wildlife, think carefully about where you will site it and how you will manage it. If you grow it up the front of a building, make sure you keep it clipped to stop it getting into the roof and also make sure that all the brickwork and pointing are completely sound too, otherwise the ivy roots will grow into the structure of the building.

Ivy, rather like Leylandii hedges, is often a source of conflict between neighbours, so be mindful of any impact your ivy might have on your neighbours’ fences, walls, buildings, etc.

An alternative late autumn nectar source for bees could be a late flowering honeysuckle. In my experience, with a honeysuckle and an ivy side-by-side, the honeysuckle is much more popular with our native bees who completely ignore the ivy. Conversely, the honey bees from hives down the road love the ivy and completely ignore the honeysuckle. The honeysuckle will keep flowering well into November, and sometimes right through to January or February, depending how harsh the winter is.



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