The Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae), identified as a new species as recently as 1993, and new to Britain in 2001 – initially in Dorset and Devon – was found in three locations around Sidcup on October 9th by Chris Rose. Although the national distribution map for the species suggests it might now be found across much of the capital, the London records centre holds no previous sightings of this species in Bexley.
C. hederae looks very similar to C. succinctus and C. halophilus, but the three species are ecologically distinct. The former times emergence to feed on Ivy flowers and the second specialises on Heather. The third utilises Sea Aster flowers and was recorded along the Cray in 2007.
I did have a half-hearted look for Ivy Bee last year and may have seen it, but was not sure of the distinguishing features. It also looks superficially similar to the Honey Bee, particularly in size. However, the yellow bands are paler, more uniform in width, approach the tip of the abdomen and run round onto the underside of the insect.
On a sunny afternoon in Sidcup a few individuals (probably at least 8) were feeding on various flowering Ivy plants growing up the railway fence-line in King George’s Recreation Ground. A couple more were on a sunbathed Ivy near the end of Lamorbey lake, and one or two were seen on each of several Ivy plants along Burnt Oak Lane, wherever the sun, now low in the sky (it was getting on for 5 p.m.), broke through between the houses on the other side of the road. All the individuals I saw appeared to be males.
Whilst Wasps were seen to continue foraging on Ivy flowers that were now in the shade, the Colletes were only noted on those still in the sun.
From memory, David Rea of Ruxley Beekeepers said last year that he’d seen Colletes hederae in the Borough, but couldn’t recall exactly where, and I think someone mentioned seeing it at Braeburn Park. It seems likely that it’s quite widespread here by now, so do look out for it ….
For more information see: