Any old ivy

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - GREEN SPACES - Wendy Tob­bit is the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust me­dia manager. Her col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly

IVY, the woody ev­er­green plant that scram­bles over fences and up trees, is the scourge of tidy gar­den­ers and yet trea­sured by na­ture con­ser­va­tion­ists.

This very com­mon plant is im­mensely valu­able for wildlife, pro­vid­ing a nec­tar source for in­sects, shel­ter for but­ter­flies and moths dur­ing the win­ter, a safe haven for birds to nest in, and berries for birds when other food is scarce.

Some peo­ple think that ivy is danger­ous for trees, but it does no harm to healthy ones. In fact, ivy is a very im­por­tant plant for all pol­li­nat­ing in­sects be­cause it flow­ers late in the sea­son.

Wasps, flies and but­ter­flies all take nec­tar from the yel­low flow­ers. Later in the au­tumn and through­out the win­ter the dark blue berries pro­vide use­ful nu­tri­tional food sources for birds.

Ivy scram­bles up trees and pro­vides a dense canopy. This is an ideal hi­ber­na­tion spot for but­ter­flies such as the pea­cock and red ad­mi­ral to over­win­ter in.

Ivy cov­ers the ground keep­ing frost and snow off the leaf lit­ter, mak­ing warmth for bee­tles and bugs, and a source of food for birds.

Small birds like to nest in ivy be­cause it gives pro­tec­tion from preda­tors such as jays and mag­pies, and in sum­mer the holly blue but­ter­fly lays its eggs in ivy.

One in­sect that feeds only on ivy is the ivy bee (col­letes hed­era).

The ivy bee was de­scribed as new to science in 1993 when it was iden­ti­fied in south­ern Europe, and first sighted in Bri­tain in Septem­ber 2001 when it was found on the Dorset coast.

Since then colonies have been recorded along the south coast of Bri­tain and in­land through Ox­ford­shire to the West Mid­lands.

The ivy bees are only ac­tive when the ivy plant is in flower, from late Septem­ber through Oc­to­ber.

The bees feed only on the nec­tar and gather pollen from the globe-shaped ivy flow­ers, of­ten trav­el­ling up to a kilo­me­tre to find them.

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