By Chris Bentley
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Warden
At this time of the year when relatively few plants are still in flower, Ivy is an excellent late season nectar source for many insects. Bees and wasps make up the bulk of insects taking advantage, with Ivy Bee being probably the commonest species on most days. As its name suggests this species is closely linked to Ivy, and since its first appearance in the UK in 2001 has become extremely common, with records extending as far north as North-eastern England. Social wasps are also a common component of the fauna of Ivy at this time of the year. Two species are active during Autumn, Common Wasp and German Wasp (below), both common species, while bumblebee include lots of Buff-tailed Bumblebee and the occasional Common Carder Bee. Finally, there have been several records of Jet Ant – all the records for this uncommon species on the reserve are from Ivy near the reserve entrance at Rye Harbour.
Several species of hoverfly are still active at this time of the year and will utilise Ivy either for feeding or simply as a place to bask in the sun. This includes common species such as Drone-fly, Marmalade Hoverfly and the wonderfully named Batman Hoverfly (below, look closely at the pattern on the thorax!).
Among the less common species found on Ivy this year have been the uncommon spider Nigma walckenaeri (the first record for East Sussex), the parasitic fly Linnaemya picta which was once a great rarity in the UK but is become increasingly common in the South-East and the blowfly Stomorhina lunata, a parasite of Locust eggs which is an increasingly common vagrant in the UK. The highlight, however, was another parasitic fly Leopoldius calceatus (below), only the second UK record after its discovery new to Britain last year in Suffolk.