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Beekeeping, Honey, Wasps, Woodpeckers

Playa de Ivy

But it’s not ivy. It’s Fatsia Japonica, one of the monster plants we have in our garden (they are either monster plants and trees or dead plants and trees in our garden).

Just another winter snack: Fatsia Japonica     Attribution: I, Drow male [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It happens to put out flowers around this time of year that look like ivy flowers. It has become the favorite winter destination for the bees, wasps, hoverflies, flies and other small flying things.

(Filming below a bit unsteady but I hope you get the idea of the number partaking and can pick out the different types of pollinators)



I had thought we were seeing this type of activity during the first few weeks of November because of the warmish weather. But, while honeybees may eventually cease their foraging as the weather gets colder, other such as the hoverfly, some bumblebees, and some flies will continue to forage during the winter. I suppose this make sense in that, while honeybees have stores to see them through winter, other pollinators do not have a larder to fall back on and so must continue to search for food.

And, people, am I the only one not to know that flies feed on nectar? The flies outnumber any other insect on the fatsia. According to Urban Pollinators,

Hoverflies and other flies can stay active in winter as well and you can see (among other hoverflies) the quite large honeybee-mimicking hoverflies Eristalis tenax and E. pertinax, flesh flies (Sarcophagidae) and green bottle flies sunbathing or nectar-collecting on the flowers. Wasps can also be seen right into December and honeybees will come out of their hives to forage at  temperatures around or above 10 C.

And according to the University of Michigan

Adult flies often drink nectar. Some feed on any liquid that has nutrients. They also can “spit” onto dry food and then suck up the spit and some extra nourishment from the dry food.  (this passage goes on to talk of other unattractive feeding habits that follow on from the spitting…).

Honestly, I had thought they were collecting moisture from the flowers, but nectar? Really, was I the only one who didn’t know this? And now the weather has turned a bit colder, they seem to be the only ones still visiting the plant.

That’s not the only winter food

I’m not sure if any kissing goes on: Viscum album (European mistletoe of the family Santalaceae in the order Santalales) or Phoradendron leucarpum (North American mistletoe from the same family and order)     Attribution: By Alexbrn [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

According to the US Geological Survey

Mistletoe is also important nectar and pollen plant for honeybees and other native bees, says Erik Erikson, a bee researcher at the USDA Bee Research Lab. Mistletoe flowers, says Erikson, often provides the first pollen available in the spring for the hungry bees. “We look upon it as an important starter food source for the bees,” said Erikson. Wind and insects are important mistletoe pollinators. Although hundreds of kinds of insects carry mistletoe pollen, only a few dozen are important pollinators; these include a variety of flies, ants, and beetles.   (those darn flies again)

Interestingly, according to the site, there is a type of insect which uses mistletoe for courtship: butterflies!

It’s not just the insects getting hungrier out there

Stomping around the top of one of the hives, watching the bees coming and going.         Attribution: By Andreas Trepte (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

You better believe the Alcatraz chicken wire went up fast….


13 thoughts on “Playa de Ivy

  1. It does seem odd that flies like nectar, but like it they do. We have several varieties of hoverfly and other types and I regularly see them working blooms. Bees, flies and butterflies appear to know how to share blooms–to work and play well together.

    Posted by Tina | November 18, 2014, 7:55 pm
    • I feel a bit stupid that that is such a revelation. If I stop and think of it, it makes sense given the fly’s love of sweet things. I guess because of the honeybees, I always think of nectar in terms of conversion then storage….

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | November 19, 2014, 9:12 am
  2. Thank you for bringing attention to pollinators

    Posted by Rambling Woods | November 19, 2014, 5:23 am
    • Well, you have inspired me! But honeybees have as well, because you do find yourself looking at all insects in a different way. Even the humble fly (although the spitting is still disturbing especially if it’s done in my kitchen).

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | November 19, 2014, 9:15 am
  3. I’ve GOT to find some of those plants. I wonder if they grow in Oregon? Very impressive with the number of bees and other insects flying to it. A “bee magnet.” You can’t have enough of them.

    Posted by solarbeez | November 19, 2014, 6:12 am
    • If they grow in the UK, I think they will grow in Oregon. They are an evergreen and pretty hardy judging from mine. I think you can get seeds on Amazon. You do have to get one fast though, because I am trusting you to produce a better video!

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | November 19, 2014, 9:19 am
      • I put an ad in the paper asking for people who had Fatsia japonica to give me a call if it’s in bloom. Only one person called me (so far) and that’s my favorite nursery owner who said he has some that’s blooming, but with no bees on it. Then my wife and I spotted some during our ‘dog walk’ this morning, but again with no bees…darn! Maybe when the sun comes out again. Thanks for bringing it to our attention because I never knew what those plants were.

        Posted by solarbeez | November 21, 2014, 4:57 am
      • To be honest, the big crowd arrived during the afternoon when that particular part of the yard gets sun, if there’s any on offer during that part of the day. For this time of year, it has to warm up a touch to draw honeybees out. By the by, someone on the British Beekeeping Forum said it was a Japanese form of ivy.

        Putting an ad in the paper, that’s dedication. Maybe I should set up a web cam so you and the folks in Russia can enjoy it (reference to a news story over here about webcams…)

        Posted by mylatinnotebook | November 21, 2014, 10:23 am
  4. So that’s what that plant is! I’ve been seeing it everywhere and thinking it looked like ivy. Glad to hear it’s equally popular with pollinators.

    Posted by Emily Scott | November 20, 2014, 10:30 pm
    • It’s funny. The plant was a lovely gift but it’s become such a part of the jungle that the only thought we give it is “geez, we got to prune that right back!” Until the sunny November afternoons when my husband was repairing the front gate and was practically knocked over by the traffic going to and fro. And now that I mentioned it here and on BBKA, everyone seems to be noticing it.

      Congratulations on passing the exam, by the way.

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | November 21, 2014, 10:16 am
      • Sorry, that came out sounding a bit big-headed. People are not talking about Fatsia because I have mentioned it, rather because they are interested in Fatsia. Not that that explanation makes it any clearer…

        Posted by mylatinnotebook | November 21, 2014, 11:34 am
  5. I learnt a lot from reading this post, so thank you. You were not the only one not to know about flies and nectar. Love the detail on the woodpecker.

    Posted by philipstrange | November 22, 2014, 10:57 am
    • I guess the distinction would be that they are only collecting nectar and not necessarily pollinating, whereas bees and hover flies pollinate. But I have to check that distinction.

      I loved that photo of the green woodpecker, really has that cheeky, opportunistic gleam in its eye.

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | November 23, 2014, 10:08 am

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