“Bees on Ivy”, This was my first published photograph, and it was chosen as the front cover photo for a beekeeping magazine. I was so proud. It was only after it was published and circulated across the globe that it was pointed out that the featured insects were not honeybees! Nope, they were not even any type of bee! They were hoverflies. I don’t know who was more embarrassed, me (a then newbie beekeeper) or the editor of the magazine!
Bees are still flying about and visit my garden every day in the hope of some morsal. There doesn’t seem to be much forage about, but bees are making the best of Ivy which is in flower now until December. It’s a flower of which I was not even aware before I became a beekeeper. The small ivy flower nodules are a very valuable source of pollen and nectar for bees preparing for winter.
The honey produced from Ivy is a difficult crop to harvest, it is very stiff and difficult to extract from the honeycomb. It’s a sumptuous dark colour when liquid but crystallises within days to a solid, cream coloured block. It also will cause any honey it’s mixed with to crystallise.
It smells funny! I can’t describe the smell, it’s not pleasant but not quite unpleasant either. Ivy honey has such a strong smell it can be detected it from outside the hive. It is also an acquired taste. Us beekeepers usually don’t bother with it even though research has revealed that Ivy honey has healing properties akin Manuka honey. That is nothing to be sneezed at!
Perhaps, yet again, the bees are well ahead of us. They keep the best of the honey for themselves.
About Ivy (Wild flowers of Ireland)
Flowers in bloom during October (Wild flowers of Ireland)
Irish honey among world’s healthiest, study finds (The Irish Times 2018)
Do you know all the benefits of honey? (Apis Project 2021)