The Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae) in Nottinghamshire
 
Its always exciting when the northerly spread of a species newly arrived into the UK, eventually means that after a number of years, its northerly progress has brought it to within a short flight of Nottinghamshire. Such an event has to be one attraction as to why many naturalists are drawn to recording invertebrates.

In much the same manner as all moth trappers hope for a long distance migrant (and they all do) looking out for and finding a species in Nottinghamshire after its UK arrival, has to be another.

Some species take longer to reach us than others and their spread up through the UK can sometimes be astonishingly rapid, as in the case of the Harlequin Ladybird and Western Conifer Seed Bug.

The Ivy Bee Colletes hederae (Schmidt & Westrich, 1993) is also one of our more recent colonisers, one of at least another twelve species which have expanded their way onto the county's fauna list.

 
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UK arrival of Colletes hederae and the spread north to Nottinghamshire

This very distinctive solitary bee, was first recorded in Dorset back in 2001. This in turn, coming only eight years after being discovered 'new to science' in southern Europe in 1993. Its arrival at the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust's Skylarks Reserve at Holme Pierrepont (per Adrian Dutton), came after a steadier northward range expansion than some other newly arrived species. The most recent species we know of and the number of years it took them to reach Nottinghamshire, are shown in the table further below.

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  Colletes hederae was recorded at Holme Pierrepont by Adrian Dutton in 2017, after he had been alerted to the bee's presence by the NWT's reserves manager of the time, who believed that it had been present there since 2016.

In all probablility, C. hederae had certainly arrived a year or two earlier than that, most likely in 2014 or 2015 in our view, which would have coincided with its quickening range expansion north through the UK. When we visited the Skylarks Reserve in 2018, we found C. hederae to be much more numerous than we had expected it to be.

After its Dorset arrival back in 2001, several years of further colonisation of new areas and consolidation of previously colonised areas took place. There were new records from along the south coast and by 2009, there were the first records from north of the River Thames. By 2011, it was reported from inland south of Oxford and there were the first ever records from Wales.

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Fig 01. Invasive/introduced and natural range expanding species and their arrivals in Nottinghamshire
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Order   Species       First UK record   First Nottinghamshire record   Difference
(Arachnida)   Leiobunum sp. A       Notts 2009   Worksop 2009   .. 0 years
(Coleoptera)   Harmonia axyridis   Harlequin Ladybird   Essex 2004   Eakring 2006   .+2 years
(Hemiptera)   Leptoglossus occidentalis   Western Conifer Seed Bug   Dorset 2007   Eakring 2009   .+2 years
(Lepidoptera)   Cameraria ohridella   Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner   London 2002   Mansfield Woodhouse 2007   .+5 years
(Orthoptera)   Meconema meridionale   Southern Oak Bush Cricket   Berks 2001   Bilborough 2007   .+6 years
(Coleoptera)   Pachyrhinus lethierryi       Essex 2003   Worksop 2010   .+7 years
(Odonata)   Erythromma viridulum   Small Red-eyed Damselfly   Essex 1999   Attenborough 2006   .+7 years
(Hymenoptera)   Bombus hypnorum   Tree Bumble Bee   Hants 2001   Worksop 2009   .+8 years
(Lepidoptera)   Cydalima perspectalis   Box-tree Moth   Kent 2007   Bestwood Village 2018   +11 years
(Hemiptera)   Dicyphus escalerae       London 2007   Mapperley 2018   +11 years
(Hymenoptera)   Colletes hederae   Ivy Bee   Dorset 2001   Holme Pierrepont 2016   +15 years
(Coleoptera)   Chrysolina americana   Rosemary Beetle   Surrey 1994   Nottingham 2009   +15 years
(Hemiptera)   Stephanitis takeyai   Andromeda Lacebug   Berks 1998   Attenborough 2016   +18 years
(Lepidoptera)   Argyresthia cupressella       Suffolk 1997   Market Warsop 2015   +18 years
 
The most recent C. hederae distribution map produced by BWARS, shows the spread up both eastern and western UK coasts and also inland. The bee's northerly movement to new areas inland, so far seems (as far as we know) to have missed the neighbouring counties of Derbyshire and Leicestershire, but it surely has to be present in Leicestershire, if not both counties?. It has been recorded on both the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire coasts.
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Nottinghamshire distribution

Since we first published this page on eakringbirds.com in September 2018, a number of additional reports have very kindly been sent to us, showing that Colletes hederae is firmly established in the county.

Confirmed sites for C. hederae to date (October 2018) now include the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust's Skylarks Reserve at Holme Pierrepont (per Adrian Dutton), Netherfield Ash Lagoon in 2017 (Rob Woodward), Beeston Rylands in 2018 (Tim Sexton) and Southwell (Rob Johnson) in 2018.

In view of these additional records in September and October 2018, the record we previously described as (unconfirmed) from Woodborough, just a few miles north-east of Nottingham in September 2017, now has to be considered extremely likely to have been this species. Woodborough lies on a clay-based soil, whilst Holme Pierrepont and the whole of the Trent Valley is very much sand and gravel.

 
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There are a number of gravel workings (past and present) lying further down the River Trent, that should ultimately provide suitable habitat for C. hederae to found new colonies. Similarly, anywhere in western Nottinghamshire, especially north of Bestwood Village, up to the Mansfield and Worksop areas, are also likely sites for further colonisation in the next few years.

The bee requires areas of bare, or sparsely vegetated areas of sandy soil for nesting and stands of Ivy close by for pollen gathering. The presence of Ivy seems vital for successful colonisation, as C. hederae is almost totally reliant on it as a pollen source. Visits to other types of flowers are very rarely reported. When we visited Holme Pierrepont in mid-September 2018 to look for this bee, we found females easy to locate on the stands of Ivy in various stages of flower, growing in a concreted area where the quarry buildings used to be. This area is only yards from the reserve's car park.

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  We found males were considerably more flighty and often responsible for causing a pollen gathering female to take flight. We found more females than males at Ivy during our visit, instead recording males with greater frequency around the entrances to nest burrows, where there would often be several males waiting for females to return to their nests.

The sparsely vegetated bank where nests were reported to us by Adrian in 2017 (above photograph) produced much fewer nests than expected, unless there was some degree of burrow excavation by Rabbits creating steeper areas of exposed sandy soil.

Small numbers of nests were located in most areas of available bare sandy soil nearby, especially if it was steeply inclined, or vertical and several other Rabbit burrows we examined, had also provided suitable nesting sites for C. hederae.

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Colletes hederae in Nottinghamshire - a short summary

Fig 02. Reported locations of Colletes hederae in Nottinghamshire

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Site   Reported first date   Additional notes
Holme Pierrepont (Skylarks NR)   September 2017   Good numbers noted on Ivy. Nest burrows located nearby.
Woodborough   September 16th 2017   A single reported on Ivy.
Netherfield Ash Lagoons   September 25th 2018.   Small numbers found on Ivy in 2017. Numbers increased in 2018.
Beeston Rylands   September 24th 2018   Large numbers reported on Ivy by Chilwell Golf Course
Southwell   October 2nd   Single reported on Ivy, then two next day.
 
The addition of this attractive bee to the county's fauna, marks the culmination of a 15 year progression of northerly movement through inland counties of the UK. Personally, it was an exciting event to see this species arrive in Nottinghamshire, especially as with so many other recent colonisers, we had been tracking its northerly progress for the last ten years with great interest.

Some species arrive in a much shorter time than Colletes hederae, many often arriving on the back of much negative publicity. The same negativity cannot be aimed at this attractive newcomer and it looks set to colonise new sites over the next few years. Its certainly worth looking out for on any large stands of Ivy growing in areas of the county with light, sandy soils between September and November.

 
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