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