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Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat .....

Posted on 1st October, 2019


Ivy? (If you have the good fortune to be young enough and have no idea what this is about, just Google the title!).


No they don’t, actually. Ivy leaves are mildly poisonous and can give little lambs (and us) a nasty stomach upset if eaten; skin contact can cause a rash in some people too. Ivy flowers on the other hand, although just a plain inconspicuous green, are a boon to wildlife as they don’t appear until autumn, providing much needed nectar for bees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths. Their berries last through the winter and are a godsend to wild birds as the supply of other fruits and berries dries up. Throughout the spring and summer the entangled, twisting foliage is ideal for concealing birds’ nests while hosting the myriad insects that provide food for the summer explosion of animal life.


Granted, ivy can present problems for trees, particularly when it produces a ‘sail’ effect on a tall tree so that it is more prone to wind damage. But its value to other wildlife is so great, a balance needs to be struck when ‘protecting’ a tree – particularly a non-native tree whose leaves, flowers or fruits feed few native insects or birds. But if you have an already dead tree in the garden, it’s an ideal support for ivy to scramble over as the stump slowly rots, producing yet more insects.








Ivy even has its own bee species dependent on it – the not-surprisingly named Ivy Bee. This new arrival in the UK (from Europe in 2001 and now spreading quickly north and west into Wales) appears to be perfectly benign, posing no threat to native species. It is a solitary bee, so has no need to sting to protect a store of honey, but can be easily confused with the slightly bigger honey bee. Females lay eggs in burrows in the ground.




Although solitary, there are often lots of individual nests close together. The males have a habit of waiting for a female to emerge from her burrow, whereupon large numbers of them attempt to mate with her, forming a ‘bee ball’.


So this boring plant, despised by many, is actually a key feature for a biodiverse garden.


Long may it scramble.

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