The invertebrate season moves inexorably towards its final phase of the year, as the ivy starts to come into flower in sunnier spots around the village. And with the flowering of the ivy come the ivy bees – just three males on a single stretch of hedgerow today, but their numbers will increase quickly over the next couple of weeks. While this makes me feel rather autumnal, I try not to let the melancholy take over, because the ivy provides a feast both for late summer species that are trying to complete their life cycles before the arrival of the cold weather, and for those that need to fatten themselves before going into hibernation. And a feast for them can mean a photographic feast for me, light permitting.
Adult ivy bees aren’t dependent on ivy flowers for food, but will visit a range of late summer flowering plants, and if ivy is in short supply the females will provision their nest cells with other pollen such as ragwort. Ivy pollen is by far the favourite larval foodstuff though, and it’s on clumps of ivy that you’ll most reliably find both males and females. In my opinion there are few prettier insects than a fresh male ivy bee, and I’m always happy when one of them allows me a portrait.