The Ivy Bees Colletes hederae are now on the wing and great to watch, especially when the females first emerge. Recently I visited three sites on the south Devon coast to sketch them. On the 5th October at Bantham there were hundreds of females digging burrows and bringing in pollen already so the emergence must have taken place in late September. The next day I visited Branscombe and here there were just males flying around the nest site exploring holes and waiting for the females to emerge. Then at Weston Mouth near Sidmouth on 10th October I managed to see several females emerge from their burrows and the frantic scrums of males as the matings took place.
There was a cold wind that day but sheltered at the base of the cliff it was quite warm. The colony was buzzing with hundreds of males which were constantly patrolling the nest site and exploring the old nesting burrows. When a female emerged a ball of males would form at the entrance to the burrow on the vertical cliff face. Then the ‘ball’ would fall about a metre to the base of the cliff but still stay intact!
One male would eventually mate with the female before she carried him off, still mating in flight, to a quieter spot away from the other males.