From Digital To Print

Last year Paul D. Brock emailed me via my WordPress contact page to ask if he could use an image of a male wasp I had photographed back in the sumemr of 2019 called Ichneumon xanthorius.

Ichneumon xanthorius male

Of course I agreed, and they sent me a complimentary copy of the book. Note they flipped my original image to suit their page layout.

Looking For Something


Gorytes laticinctus – This was another one of those odd encounters in the garden. I spotted this bright striped wasp, which is the rarest of its genus in the UK, walking in circles, going under and over and between leaves of a plant, almost like it was looking for something. Even when I shoved my big macros lens virtually in its face it did not deviate from its intent. In fact it had spent most of the day there, and the day after. It appeared to be focused on one particular leaf. This is a male. The females gather up bugs like froghoppers to feed its young.


Gorytes laticinctus male

Gorytes laticinctus male

Gorytes laticinctus male

Double-click images for a closer look.


For further interest visit the Wasps page.


Ornate-tailed Digger Wasp

Cerceris rybyensis – That is a bit of a mouthful, I know. I spotted this feeding off the rich nectar of spindle flowers growing in my back garden. Double-click for a closer peek.


Ornate-tailed Digger Wasp Cerceris rybyensis

Ornate-tailed Digger Wasp Cerceris rybyensis

Ornate-tailed Digger Wasp Cerceris rybyensis
Ornate-tailed Digger Wasp Cerceris rybyensis

Ornate-tailed Digger Wasp Cerceris rybyensis

Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 15th June 2019
Place: Rear garden, Staffordshire


Ichneumon xanthorius


I found this magnificent wasp on my patio window looking in. It is a medium to large species at around 15mm (5/8in) long. As can be seen they have very distinct black and yellow abdominal bands. They are predatory on moth and butterfly larvae. The images portray the male.

It is usually seen feeding on umbellifers, or flying through foliage on the hunt for prey. Click that mouse … and click it again if you wanna closer look-see …


Ichneumon xanthorius male

Ichneumon xanthorius male

Ichneumon xanthorius male

Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 30th June 2019
Place: Rear garden, Staffordshire


There’s Something … In The Woodshed …

European Hornet Vespa crabro

Not quite a woodshed but a garden shed. Early this morning I heard the deep buzzing first of Britain’s largest wasp, the European Hornet (Vespa crabro), then I saw it scrambling up the shed window trying to get out.

European Hornet Vespa crabro

European Hornet Vespa crabro

European Hornet Vespa crabro

September 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Yellow Ophion Ophion luteus

Yellow Ophion Ophion luteus

This extraordinary creature is an ichneumon wasp. I found two of them in my moth trap the other morning. They are nocturnal wasps, and are readily attracted to light. This is a fairly large wasp at 20mm (3/4 inch), long, with a red or orange body, antennae and legs. It has a strongly arched abdomen, which makes it look quite a fearsome wasp even to me, and I was quite wary of it, even though I knew it did not contain a sting. The females have a long ovipositor for laying eggs, and she could jab you a little with it if you were brave enough to handle one, but generally they will not harm you, say, compared to a hornet or a common wasp which will sting you, of course. It can easily be confused with other similar species so care has to be taken in identification.

Yellow Ophion Ophion luteus

The adults fly August to September, and can be found almost anywhere, including woodland, farmland, parks and gardens. The larvae are parasites of Heart & Dart moth caterpillars (Agrotis exclamationis). Common and widespread throughout.

Yellow Ophion Ophion luteus


Thanks to Craig Slawson and Gavin Broad of the Staffordshire Ecological Record for confirming identification.


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. August 2017.

The Hunter And The Hunted

Ichneumon stramentor female

Sitting on my small square of decking near my garden pond, just relaxing after being busy in the garden, a small drama began to play out.

Spotted Wolf Spider Pardosa amentata

Ichneumon stramentor female

There are always many Spotted Wolf Spider (Pardosa amentata) gathered around my pond, resting on the rocks and stones, and hiding in-between them, and what appears amongst them is this female Ichneumon wasp, Ichneumon stramentor. It was directly on the side of the decking  beneath me, and it was moving quite rapidly back and forth across the boarding, its long antennae flickering madly as if in searching for something. The females hunt out moth caterpillars where it will inject them with eggs, the larvae upon hatching will eat the caterpillar from the inside out whilst it is still alive, quite a gruesome way to go. Maybe this was what this wasp was searching for, a host for its young.

Ichneumon stramentor female

But whilst the Ichneumon wasp was preoccupied in its own possible hunt, it was actually being hunted. A Spotted Wolf Spider suddenly appeared but a few centimetres away from beneath the decking, and was observing the wasp, maybe weighing it up. It crept a little closer to it, but appeared quite wary. It observed its potential prey, must have decided it was too big for it to tackle, and the wasp went on its own way.

 

Ichneumon stramentor

Ichneumon stramentor

Out of all the insects to attempt to photograph I find wasps can be one of the trickiest of challenges as they hardly ever keep still. This is an ichneumon wasp, quite a large species and colourful with its bright yellow markings. There are many similar species and identifying them can be a challenge in itself. There are believed to be over 3,000 species in Britain alone. But thanks to my blogger friend Ark I managed to positively identify it.I spotted this one yesterday afternoon as it appeared quite interested in my back fence, poking its head in nooks and crannies. I did not think I would get any shots in, it was so busy, until it stopped for a brief moment to have a little spruce up.

Ichneumon stramentor

Despite its fearsome looks it does not sting. The bright yellow spot on the tip of the abdomen and the pale yellow bands on the antennae define it as a female as these are absent in the male. The larvae are parasites of moth larvae, notably the Large Yellow Underwing and Setaceous Hebrew Character. Seen April to July, and found in meadows, hedgerows, woodland margins and gardens.


Ichneumon stramentor female, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. April 2017.

Early Spring Risers

German Wasp Vespula germanica

Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax)

Red Mason Bee Osmia bicornis female

Here are three early spring risers which I found warming themselves on shrubbery at the bottom of my garden. Please click on images for better definition.

Hornet

Vespa crabro

Hornet (Vespa crabro)

Britain’s largest wasp, it is most distinctive with its brown and yellow colouration. The eyes are large and C-shaped, and they also have three simple eyes (ocelli) in the centre of their forehead between the main eyes. Length 20 to 30mm.

Hornet (Vespa crabro)

The nest is made from chewed wood and is paper-like, and are found in tree hollows, chimneys or wall cavities. Hornets are carnivores and predate on many garden pests, but they can also destroy honeybee hives.

Hornet (Vespa crabro)

Seen spring and summer, and through into autumn until the frosts set in which kill them all off except the young queens which survive the winter hibernating in sheds or tree hollows. Found in woods, parks and gardens. Attracted to light. Quite uncommon, but widespread in the south and centre of England and most of Wales, scarce or absent elsewhere.

Hornets are characterised as aggressive insects, and although due to their large size they can appear fearsome, they are less aggressive and less likely to sting than the average wasp. But their sting can be quite painful if they are provoked or especially if their nest is threatened.

Photographs of Hornet (Vespa crabro), taken June  2006, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2006. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1.

About Plant Galls

Knopper Gall (Andricus quercuscalicis)
Knopper Gall (Andricus quercuscalicis)

I have always been fascinated by these strange yet sometimes most beautiful growths. Plant galls are something of an oddity when some folk first encounter them, others don’t even know they exist. Plant galls come in all shapes and sizes, and are formed by another organism using the plant as a host, using it for shelter and for food.

Robin's Pincushion (Diplolepis rosae)
Robin’s Pincushion (Diplolepis rosae)

They are caused by insects or mites, fungi or bacteria, and cause a biological reaction within the plant which causes these odd lumps and bumps to form of their tissues.  They affect both herbaceous and wood plants, and there are at least over 1,000 species in Britain alone.

Cherry Gall Wasp (Cynips quercusfolii)
Cherry Gall Wasp (Cynips quercusfolii)

It is most unlikely you would see the mite or insect which causes the majority of these galls for they are very small, some even microscopic, but the species can be identified by the galls they produce.The study of plant galls is called cecidology.

Robin’s Pincushion

Diplolepis rosae

Robin's Pincushion (Diplolepis rosae)

This strange yet beautiful growth is the result of a tiny gall wasp called Diplolepis rosae laying its eggs in a wild rose bud in springtime. Also called the ‘Bedeguar Gall Wasp’, the females appear in the spring just in time to lay their eggs in the fresh young buds. Males are a rarity, and most females lay fertilised eggs without mating.

The gall mainly grows on the stem of the plant, and it can spread up to 7cm across. The gall has a woody core each surrounded by branching red or green hairs. The core usually has multiple chambers in which each a wasp larvae develops. The galls turn brown in the autumn and lose many of their hairs.

Photograph of Robin’s Pincushion (Diplolepis rosae), taken August 2010, country park, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2010. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Down At The Watering Hole

Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris)

Photographs of Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) taken August 2016, rear garden pond, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.


I have had a fascinating few months watching my garden pond develop, but one thing I wasn’t really expecting was the regular visitation of wasps. They drop by to have a drink, and then they are off again, and aren’t any real bother at all.

The Hornet And The Painted Lady

The Hornet And The Painted Lady

Photograph of Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and Hornet, taken August 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

Diplazon laetatorius

Diplazon laetatorius

I was photographing my sweet peas after a night’s heavy rain when I spotted this tiny wasp resting on one of them. It only grows up to 10mm long, and it is identified by the white, black and orange banded hind tibia. The overall ground colour is black and reddish, with a distinctive white spot at the rear of the thorax.

This is a parasitic wasp mainly of hoverfly larvae, pupae and eggs, but also other diptera species. The females use their long ovipositors to inject the host and lay eggs inside it, and when the resulting larvae hatch they feed internally and eventaully kill the host organism.

It is seen June to September, and found in meadows and hedgerows. It appears to be fairly common.

Photograph of Diplazon laetatorius, taken August 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Common Wasp

Vespula vulgaris

Similar to the German Wasp (Vespula germanica) which has has three black spots on its face and forms a triangle, where as the Common Wasp has an anchor-shaped mark on its face. It has bright yellow and black bands running down its body, and four large yellow spots at the rear of its thorax. Length 10 to 18mm.

The nest is made from chewed wood and is paper-like. It is constructed underground, in tree hollows, or in sheds and attics and is yellowish in colour. The adults hunt for other insects, most often caterpillars, to feed their larvae. The adults feed on nectar.

Seen April to October. Found in various habitats wherever there is suitable prey, including woodland, parkland and gardens. A common and widespread species throughout Britain.

Photographs taken May 2014, on garage wall in rear garden, Staffordshire. I notice they like to drink from my birdbath and garden pool. I also hear and see them scraping bits of wood from my larchlap fence which they must use to build their nests.