Ivy and organic farming. Robert´s NOW

Ivy (Hedera) is a genus of plants from Europe, Africa and Asia. They are climbers, perennials and evergreen shrubs. It belongs to the family Araliaceae. Moderate resists frost and likes all types of soils with moisture. It is a very rustic plant, which can be used as a climber and as floor panel. It is fixed to any substrate minimally rugged.

Roberto Colino

Besides its ability to cover large areas in a short time (due to its rapid development), we use it as an attractant of beneficial insects for our organic garden. To do flowers and fruits are used. Furthermore due to its evergreen it serves as a refuge for both overwintering insects, as nests of small birds (blackbirds, wrens, etc.).

It is a plant that takes in giving flowers (8 to 10 years), so it must be planted early. Flowering begins from September, a time when there are not many flowers. For this reason their flowers are visited by many species of insects in search of both pollen and its néctar.

Manufactures various inhabits warm dry open places. Adults fly from June to November. Their larvae parasitize insects. They help maintain balance in the organic garden.

Manufactures various inhabits warm dry open places. Adults fly from June to November. Their larvae parasitize insects. They help maintain balance in the organic garden.

Several species of flies also come to feed on nectar from flowers of ivy (Hedera helix). In the picture you can see the different configuration of the mouthparts of insects. The flies are specialized in sucking liquid, so their mouthparts has the design similar to a suction cup.

Many of these insects are pollinators of our fruits and vegetables. Other pests are pests of many of our crops. Others are predators that hunt enemies of our plants. A real ecosystem, that’s our organic garden. Therefore no pesticides are needed. Everything is in balance. Less work for the organic farmer. Less pollution and healthy crops.

Icneumónidas wasps also enjoy the nectar from the flowers of ivy (Hedera helix). Recall that these wasps are important drivers of larvae of butterflies and other insects, which parasitize.

Icneumónidas wasps also enjoy the nectar from the flowers of ivy (Hedera helix). Recall that these wasps are important drivers of larvae of butterflies and other insects, which parasitize.

In addition, the flowers have the ability to continue producing nectar for a long time, even beyond the period of stigma receptivity and even during fruit formation (our observations indicate that in the middle of December continue giving nectar). This is because not only nectar is produced by nectaries but also by certain phloem cells, being secreted by modified stomata.

Nectaries (nectar producing organs), are located at the top of the ovary of each flower found fully exposed to the outside environment. This arrangement facilitates feeding species that have not elongated mouthparts, so the number of species that frequent the flowers of ivy is large.

Numerous insects feed on the nectar of flowers ivy (Hedera helix). In this case we caught a wasp licking the surface of the nectaries.

Numerous insects feed on the nectar of flowers ivy (Hedera helix). In this case we caught a wasp licking the surface of the nectaries.

It should also be noted that the nectaries surface is rough and undulating. Using an electron microscope, we see that is full of fine grooves to prevent the continuous flow of nectar from drying too quickly. This structure explains why insects visiting flowers for food are so much time in each of them, even giving several consecutive laps around the same nectarine, as if the nectar is not allocated, which is surprising if we compare the length of stay in most flowers, much shorter.

Detail of a flower Canarian ivy (Hedera canariensis). Petals bent down and pale yellow are appreciated. It has five petals. The stamens are also seen (have five stamens, although flower photography has lost one) and stigma in the center of gineceo yellowish brown. If you look carefully, on the surface of white ginneceo drops of nectar are.

Detail of a flower Canarian ivy (Hedera canariensis). Petals bent down and pale yellow are appreciated. It has five petals. The stamens are also seen (have five stamens, although flower photography has lost one) and stigma in the center of gineceo yellowish brown. If you look carefully, on the surface of white ginneceo drops of nectar are.

For bees, ivy is very important. On the one hand because it is a source of late pollen, which means that bees can continue raising if weather conditions accompanying the months of September and October (to say that pollen is the only source of protein, lipids, minerals and vitamins for bee larvae can develop).

In addition, the pollen collected before winter is stored and used to start breeding next season much sooner (late winter) before the weather allows bees to go outside. On the other hand ivy nectar  is vital for the winter (it has been found that in areas such as Ireland, most winter bookings of hives is nectar from flowers of ivy).

Our latest observations indicate that the preponderance of Asian hornet (Vespa vetulina) frightens bees and other insects. Thus, the bees have not come to feed this fall ivy flowers. What will become of them in the winter? we will tell you in the following articles of Robert’s NOW.

November 2015. The Canary ivy (Hedera canariensis) is in bloom at this time. If last year the number of Asian wasps who came to feed on the pollen was high, this year is exaggerated. In addition there has been a noticeable decrease in other insect species than last year fed nectar with Asian wasps. There are fewer flies, less hoverflies, butterflies and no less bee. We have opened the hives, and we have found that the bees are inside, as if afraid to leave. Copies of Asian hornet not stalk them stop outside the hive. Our concern is this: if they remain inside the hives, they are feeding on their honey reserves. How do they do in winter with fewer reserves and little bloom where to go ?. And if the winter is harsh even worse. Finally, we have also found that Asian wasps flock to feed on fallen apples that have been crushed by the tractor as well as the last remaining figs.

November 2015. The Canary ivy (Hedera canariensis) is in bloom at this time. If last year the number of Asian wasps who came to feed on the pollen was high, this year is exaggerated. In addition there has been a noticeable decrease in other insect species than last year fed nectar with Asian wasps. There are fewer flies, less hoverflies, butterflies and no less bee.
We have opened the hives, and we have found that the bees are inside, as if afraid to leave. Copies of Asian hornet not stalk them stop outside the hive. Our concern is this: if they remain inside the hives, they are feeding on their honey reserves. How do they do in winter with fewer reserves and little bloom where to go ?. And if the winter is harsh even worse.
Finally, we have also found that Asian wasps flock to feed on fallen apples that have been crushed by the tractor as well as the last remaining figs.

The birds also help us in the organic garden. Control insects not to be pests. They kept in balance soil invertebrates. They clean the bark of fruit trees eliminating moth larvae and other insects. And in winter many of these birds come to eat the ivy fruits.

 

Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) are specialists in capturing insects on fruit trees. But love the fruits of ivy. They are the best treatment against the latest apple moth.

Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) are specialists in capturing insects on fruit trees. But love the fruits of ivy. They are the best treatment against the latest apple moth.

Common blackbirds gorge with the fruits of the Canary ivy, which by contrast, are toxic to humans.

Common blackbirds gorge with the fruits of the Canary ivy, which by contrast, are toxic to humans.

 

Robin is an insectivorous bird, but also feeds on small fruits such as Canary ivy and other larger, such as khakis.

Robin is an insectivorous bird, but also feeds on small fruits such as Canary ivy and other larger, such as khakis.

Do not hesitate, if you have an organic garden, an ivy plant!

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robert

I am a biologist specializing in ecology. I am a nature photographer and organic farmer.I am trying to understand the role of the species in the agroecosystem, to get quality food while preserving the environment. All this I try to convey in my organic farm school. Our website: www.areitzsoroa.com
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