The research, carried out by scientists at the University's Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) is published online today (26 April 2013) in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity.
Honey bees returning from successful forage trips perform the waggle dance to tell nest mates where to find nectar and pollen-rich flowers (the dance indicates the direction and distance to the flowers). Researchers video then decode the waggle dances and use the data to find out how far bees fly, where they go to and what types of plants they are feeding on at different times in the year.
The main findings were:
- On average 89 per cent of pollen pellets brought by worker bees to hives were from ivy. There was no difference between hives located in an urban (Brighton) versus a rural area (University of Sussex).
- 80 per cent of honey bees foraging on ivy were collecting nectar not pollen.
- Ivy nectar was high quality, with a lot of sugar (49 per cent).
- Ivy flowers are visited by a wide range of insects, such as late-season butterflies, hover flies, other types of flies, wasps, bumble bees, and the ivy bee (a bee that specialises on ivy). Insects were attracted to ivy flowers in large numbers in both urban and rural areas.
- Ivy is common and available to insects in both town and countryside."
The honey and the ivy: Why gardeners' foe is the bees' friend
by Maggie Clune