Are you finding insects a bit harder to come by now September is here?
I know I am and the reality is that there are fewer around. Groups such as butterflies and hoverflies are decreasing in diversity and abundance in the countdown to the first frost (still, thankfully, some way off!). However, it's not time to stop looking for them just yet...
I have a cure for this little problem. It’s really simple too – just stand under some ivy on a sunny day.
The first ivy flowers are coming out in my village in Cambridgeshire and last Friday the insects were literally queuing up for their turn at the first few flowers.
Some of the best ivy watching can be done from the safety and comfort of a pavement. Nature's Home magazine's urban birder David Lindo would be proud of me! (Mark Ward)
So why is this very common and often hated plant so good for insects? It’s all to do with timing. With fewer and fewer other flowers available as September goes on and October comes in, the abundant little flowers of ivy are the place to go for everything from social wasps (the much-maligned yellow and black ones), solitary wasps and honeybees to solitary bees, hoverflies, butterflies and flies. The glossy green foliage is great for bugs, beetles and spiders to lurk in, and in the case of the latter spin their webs in, too.
Find the big threeMy favourite three insects to look out for over the next few weeks include, as number one, the simply beautiful red admiral. If this was a rare butterfly in the UK, people would flock to see it.
Red admirals switch from hemp agrimony to ivy in September (Mark Ward)
Number two is the stunning hornet hoverfly (Volucella zonaria). This is the UK’s biggest hoverfly and, once plants such as hemp agrimony and buddleia fade away, ivy is its “go to”. When I was walking in the village on my lunch break, two different wall-fulls of ivy had these big beasties and they posed nicely for my phone camera.
Hornet hoverfly - check your local ivy this September (Mark Ward)
The final one is one of my “Top 10s” for September as featured in last week’s blog. The stripy ivy colletes bee. Once you get your eye in with them, you’ll know you are not looking at a honey bees – they are even more handsome.
Keep an eye on Nature's Home's wildlife -gardening expert Adrian Thomas' features for more advice on what to plant for wildlife. There's a different reader's garden featured every issue and it's one of my favourite parts of the magazine. I know Adrian loves visiting your gardens too!