Ivy season is here

The ivy is flowering well here and the bees are working it hard to collect late season pollen and nectar. On a walk last weekend every bush in the sun was alive with bees.

Flowering ivy

Flowering ivy


My colonies never collect enough ivy nectar to get much of a crop of honey from, but I’m told it’s an acquired taste. When it crystallises it sets rock hard and the bees often cannot or do not use it as stores during the winter. When you open the colony in the spring there is still a part-filled frame of hard dark honey, usually with a waxy appearance, from the previous season’s ivy.

By feeding relatively early in the season (mid/late August) I get the Varroa treatment completed with the intention of giving the bees time to generate those all-important overwintering bees once the queen starts laying again (Apiguard often slows or stops the queen from laying). Perhaps the brood box is already packed with stores? However, the ivy pollen is very useful, both for brood rearing now and for early spring.

Late season pollen

Late season pollen …

4 thoughts on “Ivy season is here

  1. Emily Scott

    I wonder whether it is ivy pollen in your photo of the entrance… when I’ve been watching bees on the ivy recently they seem to be collecting pollen which is a light yellow colour. Whereas my bees and yours also seem to be collecting a deep yellow pollen, I would love to know what it is.

    1. dje Post author

      I think you’re right Emily … it probably isn’t ivy. However, I’m colourblind so struggle a bit with subtle shade differences. I did look at the pollen charts on Bristol Beekeepers website and on the Sheffield Beekeepers site. The ivy doesn’t look like the stuff my girls are bringing in … but there’s nothing much on the charts that does match. However, the picture was taken at an apiary pretty close to a built up area, so they could be collecting all sorts from ornamental flowers.

      1. dje Post author

        It is ivy after all. Here’s a (rather poor) photo I took this afternoon with the bees busy collecting pollen from ivy in the sun. Looks pretty much the same as the stuff they’re bringing back to into my colonies. I doubt this bee is from one of my hives as I was out for a walk a mile or two away from the apiary.

        There is some correspondence on the Beekeeping forum about the nectar and pollen-yielding properties of the two principle ivy species in the UK Hedera helix and H. hibernica. I suspect that the linked image above is the latter.

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