Fringe Box



Wild Surrey: Lunch at The Ivy

Published on: 10 Dec, 2023
Updated on: 10 Dec, 2023

Notes from a wildlife enthusiast.

Harry Eve lives in East Horsley and is a keen naturalist. He has managed his garden as a habitat for wildlife for 30 years. It has been colonised by a number of rare and attractive bees, butterflies and other insects as well as being home to some interesting larger creatures and wildflowers. He advises East Horsley Parish Council on the management of Wellington Meadow and campaigns to conserve our local wildlife.

By Harry Eve

As summer ended there was one last big annual celebration to attend that stretched into autumn.

It is the time when ivy bursts into bloom providing a wonderful source of nectar when most other flowers are dying off and flying insects are running short of places to refuel.

My wildlife garden has plenty of flowering ivy and here are some of the customers that dropped by this year:

Red admiral butterfly



Red admirals and ivy bees

The ivy bee is a recent arrival first recorded in the UK a little over 20 years ago. It has become very common in the rural parts of Guildford.

Ivy bee

Buff-tailed bumblebee

I am told that this buff-tailed bumblebee is a male. Apparently, this species can now have active nests throughout the winter in southern Britain and, locally, it is the first one that I find in the early months of the year.

Blood bee

Blood bees are “cleptoparasites” taking over the larval food supply of certain solitary bees that nest in the ground. They kill the host egg or larva so it is a case of robbery with violence. There are many species and they are not easy to tell apart. Finding these can indicate a healthy population of the host species.

The hoverfly hornet plumehorn on an ivy flower watched by a smaller hoverfly cousin

The hornet plumehorn (a recent English name given to the large hoverfly Volucella zonaria) lays its eggs in the nests of wasps and hornets. It used to be very rare in the UK but it began to spread in the last few years of the 20th century. You are also likely to find them in the Summer visiting various flowers that produce plenty of nectar.

Golden longhorn (a recent English name given to the hoverfly Callicera aurata)

Golden longhorn and a small blue coloured holly blue egg

The golden longhorn is a rarely-seen hoverfly but I am fortunate to see one every few years here. They spend most of their early stages and, probably, much of their adult life high up in old trees. They descend to visit flowers.

Plants like field scabious (the wild species – not the fancy varieties that you can buy) and teasel seem to be preferred and ivy for those that survive into September. In one of the photos, you should be able to spot an egg of the holly blue butterfly.

Female holly blue

European hornet

European hornet 2

The European hornet is another species that has increased its range considerably and this seems likely to be due to our warming climate. I find them to be much more docile than the more familiar social wasps.

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