When about a thousand bee/wasp creatures came to live in my garden polytunnel a couple of weeks ago, I emailed our local permaculture group members for help identifying them. The bees/wasps were feeding on the split tomatoes by day, and at night were going to sleep in clumps on the floor. The polytunnel doors were wide open, but they showed no signs of planning to leave.
The mystery of what they were was soon solved. Someone else had recently had the same thing happen in their polytunnel, and the insects had been identified as Ivy Bees. These are a fairly new species to us, first seen in the UK in 2001. They hatch out in the autumn and feed on the ivy which is flowering at that time. When I looked closely at the ivy in my garden, lo and behold, more such stripey bees were indeed buzzing round the ivy flowers.
I was told that the Ivy Bees were docile, only stinging under very extreme provocation, which seems to be correct as despite having hundreds buzzing round me when picking tomatoes, I haven’t been stung. They are fairly short-lived, and sadly most of mine have now died (in heaps on the polytunnel floor!). Apparently they lay their eggs in burrows in the ground, with many females making burrows close to each other.
I wonder if they have made their burrows inside the polytunnel? Perhaps I will see their descendants this time next year. I can’t help thinking that they’d be better off living outside, taking nectar from the Ivy flowers. After all, they aren’t called Polytunnel or Split Tomato Bees.