Any old ivy
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.