Ivy (Hedera helix)…not really edible unless you filter it through a bee first

Honey bee and wasp on ivy

Honey bee and wasp on ivy – stripey and striiiipey, together not so much in perfect harmony as a wary truce. I may not have Paul McCartney’s way with words but I’m sure I’m more educational


And even then, apparently debatable if you’d want to eat anything that originates in ivy.  I read somewhere yesterday that one beekeeper’s experience is that of about 1 person who likes ivy honey there are another 100 who run screaming from the teaspoon.  It probably won’t do any harm, I gather (unlike the plant itself – don’t eat ivy, kids), but most people wouldn’t drizzle it on their porridge for fun.

When we went to our first practical bee meeting in the spring someone who lives near to us, similarly close to coombes of undermanaged woodland, told us tales of woe of ivy honey that she couldn’t do anything with. Apparently nectar from ivy crystalises as soon as you look at it. Such are the whispered tales of its menace that I’m surprised the earth isn’t littered with bees frozen in position after encountering a cool breeze on their way back from the forest.

Our beehives face straight towards to our patch of, you guessed it, undermanaged woodland. The deer take quite a bit from around the trees but stems as thick as a small child’s arm (*not actually tested with real child*) wind their way up and blossom merrily round about now. The foragers have been looking increasingly like a Ready-Brek advert as they speed back to the hive with saddlebags full of a very attractive orange-yellow pollen – there’s so much of it going in, so fast, that it does almost flash or glow, to my short-sighted eyes at least.

Most people seem to say the bees will manage fine with ivy honey, and what they don’t use they are able to remove when they want the space for brood in the spring and that you’ll actually find crystallised lumps of “sugar” thrown out. As this is our first year and we’ve had quite a dramatic baptism in to beekeeping, with three colonies where there were one, we’re busy feeding sugar syrup right now (not half as busy as the bees are processing it, to be fair). Some people seem to say this will help dilute the ivy nectar while others say you will find patches of ivy honey and patches of converted syrup and other honeys in the comb. I’m grateful for the late and plentiful pollen source at least, plenty of other insects benefit from it too, and we shall see in the spring, if the bees remain with us, how they’ve fared with the honey. Fingers and antennae crossed.



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