Ivy And The Miner Bee In Friars Cliff

 In Environment

Ah, ivy! A friend and a foe to gardeners I believe. There is some truth in that. If you need to cut ivy then you must wear safety glasses and a dust mask. The dust it releases goes straight to the throat and lungs. That apart, ivy is a true wonder of the natural world. The birds love to live in it and eat its berries and insects relish the flowers. Unlike what most people believe, it does not damage walls, foundations or trees. Indeed, a churchyard memorial will last forever if swathed in ivy. The worst thing you can do is expose the stone to the weather and its acid rain. However, you might wonder why ivy and the miner bee in Friars Cliff is my topic.

The wave wall

The ivy is flowering, right now, in mid October. Those with an acute nose can smell the scent in Steamer Point Nature Reserve. Not exactly Parisian but pleasant enough. It grows along the top of the embankment above the wave wall. Lots of it is in the hedge to the left of the visitor centre. Buzzing around these flowers is a small bee, with wasp like markings. This is the ivy bee, sometimes called the ivy mining bee. It arrived here in 2001 from Europe. Yes, that first siting may have been here, in Friars Cliff. This bee nests in sand, specifically the sand cliff above the wave wall. If you stand beneath the cliff, you can see the nest holes, as shown in my photograph.

Ivy and the miner bee in Friars Cliff

The ivy miner, or mining, bee is pretty harmless. Only the females sting, and then reluctantly. A sting feels no worse than from a nettle. The bee vacates its hole only when the ivy is in flower. How does it know this? It collects pollen from the flowers and packs this back into a hole around a new laid egg. That hatches into a bee roughly one year later and the cycle repeats. Although the nest holes can be seen now, the wind and rain soon covers them with sand and they are not obvious for most of the year. I included these bees in my Friars Cliff walk, which is here. This European newcomer is welcome in Friars Cliff and I urge you to have a look at it, now, before the ivy flowers and holes disappear.

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