Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius
The Clean Queen
The new queen ant which has fled the nest on its nuptial flight seems to be more interested in the ornate ball set atop the post of my decking. She seemed to be eating the decking oil (see image directly below) I had treated it with, which I have seen other ants do in the past. She was also a very clean queen, for she was always grooming herself. She must have been up there for at least 2 hours, and seemed very reluctant to leave.
Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. July 2017.
Four For Dinner
They have been at my roses all summer so far, and they are certainly making a meal of them. These are Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana) larva, young instars most likely. And four of them seem to like this one particular leaf for some reason. I feel sorry for the top two, for when they finally meet in the middle it will be the guy sitting on the branch he is sawing off scenario. Or maybe it won’t come to that.
Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. July 2017.
Please click on an image for a larger more detailed view. Clicking a second time may get you a little closer.
Buck Bumble Stops By
It was a hot sunny afternoon and I sat by the pond sipping some cider when this rather rude fellow came and sat down right beside me.
He immediately began sticking out his tongue, and I said, “Hey, Buck. Do you have to do that right here and right now?”
“I sure do,” he said, sticking out his tongue so far out of his head I thought it might drop out.
“But it is rather rude, don’t you think?” I replied, feeling somewhat repulsed and putting my can of cider down on the deck.
“No, not at all,” the bumblebee said, curling and wriggling his sticky tongue.
Then something quite extraordinary happened. I thought I was on the set of another remake of The Thing when one tongue became three!
What the heck … I thought, and said. “Do you really, really have to do that, as well?”
The sun beat down, flies buzzed and a vibrant blue damselfly floated over the sparkling water of the pond to settle on the sword-like leaf of an Iris.
“I sure do,” he repeated, but it was hard to make out what he was saying with all that odd tongue business going on.
“But is it really necessary? I am trying to have a nice sit down and enjoy a nice drink of scrumpy. It is rather off-putting, you know.”
“I sure do. I have to keep it in tip-top condition. I apologise, but grooming is very important to us bumblebees.”
I mellowed a little, and picked up my can of cider and said, “I guess that’s fine then. Quite a neat trick the three in one thing.”
I dare not repeat what he said, but with that it buzzed off and left me there sitting on the deck pondering over what just happened.
Please click on the images for a larger more detailed view. Clicking again gets you closer still.
Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum), rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.
The Bumblebee And The Geranium
I have always had a soft spot for bumblebees since I was a child which has never waned, but has actually deepened as I have got older. This bumblebee is one of my favourites and is called the Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum). I am always taken by the bands of yellow and the bright orange tail, although the middle band can be absent in some workers.
Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) on Pencilled Crane’s-bill (Geranium versicolor), rear garden, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.
This is quite a small but very distinctive sawfly which I regularly see around my back garden. Brightly orange body and legs, a black head, black markings on the thorax and along one side of the wings.
Common and widespread, the larvae are considered to be an occasional but serious pest of crucifers, especially turnips.
Turnip Sawfly (Athalia rosae), rear garden, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.
Bluebells In The Garden
The Hunter And The Hunted
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now this is one bumblebee I have seen a definate increase in visits to my garden in recent years.
The Tree Bumblebee is easily recognised by its gingery-brown thorax and black abdomen with a white tail. This is a short-tongued bumblebee. The queen may have some white hairs on her abdomen, and the male has white hairs on his face. Similar to the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum), except the Tree Bumblebee has a distinct white tail. Size Queen 18mm, worker 14mm, male 16mm.
In its natural setting it nests in hollows of trees, but here it has taken to gardens, and particularly tit boxes.
Seen early in the year from February until July. Found in woodland, roadside verges, scrubby grasslands, parks and allotments. Often seen visiting fruit bearing plants, tree and shrubs, which make them important pollinators.
A relative newcomer to the British Isles, it was first recorded in Hampshire, England in 2001 and has steadily increased in numbers pushing northwards fringing the borders of Scotland. They have also spread rapidly eastwards, but have been slow in the west, but are now in South Wales. The bumblebee has the potential to spread throughout the whole country without any adverse affect on other species.
June 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
Wool Carder Bee
This has to be one of my very favourite solitary bees with its bright yellow markings, although it can have quite the temper with other bees.
Easily recognised solitary bee by the bright yellow spots on either side of the abdomen. It also has distinctive yellow legs and face. The male is much larger than the female, which is unusual amongst bees. Size 8 to 15mm.
The male holds territory around a clump of flowers expelling all apart from the female carder bees which it will mate with. They are so aggressive they are known to kill bumblebees much larger than themselves and honey bees by crushing them with three sharp prongs on their abdomen. The female cuts and combs the fibres from hairy plants with her large jaws and gathers them into a ball under her body in readiness to take back to her nest, which is usually constructed within a pre-existing cavity or a hollow stem. The ‘carded’ material is then used to line the nest. Good pollinators.
Seen May to August, and found in many habitats, including gardens. Widespread across Europe.
July 2006, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2006.
Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee
Bumblebee Bombus vestalis
This species of cuckoo bee grows up in the nests of the Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). This parasitic bee differs from having a conspicuous yellow patch on either side of the abdomen. Other differences include a lack of pollen baskets on the legs, thinner coats, and making a soft murmuring rather than a definitive buzz. This is a short-tongued bee. Also called the ‘Southern Cuckoo Bumblebee’. Similar to the Gypsy Cuckoo-bee (Bombus bohemicus), where the patches aren’t so dominant and are smaller. Sizes male 15 to 19mm, female 20 to 24mm.
Like all cuckoo bees, they have no worker caste as their own, so they invade the hosts’ nests and take the work force for its own. Important plant pollinators.
The female will seek out its host’s nest and will fight off any hostilities towards her, eventually killing the queen of the nest and her offspring, and effectively she will run the show from then onwards, utilising the remaining workers for her and her young’s own benefits. Its hosts’ nests are generally old mouse holes. Feeds on nectar and pollen.
Seen March to August, and found in differing habitats, including gardens and grassland. Males regular in suburban gardens. Common in the south of England and Wales.
June 2007, front garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2007.
Tawny Mining Bee
The female is unmistakable with her bright fox-red coat. Size 10 to 13mm.
It can be seen coming and going to its nesting sites in the earth or in lawns where the female throws up little mounds of earth around her entrance. There maybe many mounds in close proximity, each one the entrance to a single, solitary bee’s nest. Excellent and essential pollinator. Feeds on nectar and pollen.
Seen April to June, and found in many habitats, including gardens. Widespread and common.
April 2013, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013.
Common Carder Bumblebee
Also know as the ‘Brown Bumblebee’, this bee has a very distinctive tawny or gingery thorax. The abdominal region contains a mixture of black and brown hairs with traces of fine grey to white and is thin in coverage compared to the thorax which is fairly thick. A long-tongued bee. Size queen 15 to 18mm, worker 10 to 15mm.
These bees use their legs to comb moss (hence the English reference ‘Carder’ which comes from the world of spinning wool) to make their nests. They are relatively placid creatures, and rarely sting even when handled or disturbed. They feed on pollen and nectar, particularly that of clovers. An essential pollinator, and the only bee known to pollinate broad beans.
It is a surface-nesting bee, and nests are usually formed in old mouse holes or amongst carpets of moss or thick grass. The cuckoobee Bombus campestris targets the nests and uses the worker caste to its own advantage.
One of the earliest bees and one of the last to disappear in the autumn. Found in all habitats, including farmland and woodland glades, parks and gardens. Widespread and common in Britain, and one of the commonest bumblebees in Europe.
May 2007, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2007.
Early Mining Bee
Quite a small bee which never really kept still, and quite a challenge to photograph with the camera I had at the time.
The rich gingery brown thoracic hair and the blue-black-brown abdomen with the gingery brown tip readily identify this small active, solitary bee. The male is much smaller than the female, and the male has a pale brown face whilst the female is white. Size 10 to 12mm.
Burrows are dug in many open habitats in which they make their nests. Feeds on pollen and nectar.
Seen March to July, and found in various habitats, including parks, garden lawns, sports fields, and similar places. A common species in Britain and across Europe generally.
June 2006, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2006.
One of my favourite bumblebees and a regular visitor to my garden.
The queens and workers (and some males) have a white tail and a lemony stripe towards the front of the the thorax, and a lemony stripe across the abdomen. A large robust species with a very short tongue. Similar to Bombus terrestris, which can be very hard to distinguish between workers. Sizes queen 19 to 20mm, male 14 to 16mm, worker 11 to 17mm.
They nest in a variety of places, usually underground, and always under cover. Old rodents’ nests make good places. Often nests beneath timber floors of garden sheds. Mature nests are large, with over 200 workers. Towards the autumn the colony gradually dies out with the old queen, the new fertilised queen flown the nest ready to hibernate and to start over again the next spring. Not particularly fussy eaters. They also dine on the pollen and nectar of the more exotic garden species of flower. They are excellent pollinators.
The queens, looking for nesting sites, are one of the first bees to be seen in the spring. Found in many habitats, but usually in upland and moorland habitats. A regular garden species. Widespread and common, especially towards the north.
June 2006, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2006.
This Sharp-tailed Bee (this group is also called Sharp-abdomen Bees or Sharp-bellied Bees) has a dark brown to blackish abdomen with pale stripes, forming a definite point at the rear in females. The abdomen is less pointed in males, and the faces are quite hairy. Size 10 to 15mm.
A cleptoparasitic solitary bee of leaf-cutter bees of the genus Megachile. A good pollinator. Defined as a cuckoobee for its nature of laying eggs in the nests of social bees (similar to that of cuckoo birds where the name comes from) where they are reared as the hosts own larvae. The parasitic bee larva consumes the pollen ball and the larva within the cell and is tended by the host bee’s worker class. Feeds on pollen and nectar.
Seen June to September. Found in many habitats, including gardens. Local. Endangered species in Ireland.
June 2005 and May 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2005 and 2014.
This was a special treat when this large bee with a very long tongue (yep, bees have tongues) visited my garden, for I have not seen one since.
Sometimes called the ‘Small Garden Bumblebee’ (despite it being one of the largest species) or the ‘Long-tongued Bumblebee’, it has two yellow bands on the thorax, one yellow band on the abdomen, and a white tail. The tongue is very long (the longest of any bumblebee found in Europe, in fact), and the male has black facial hairs. A large, shaggy garden species. Sizes queen 17 to 22mm, male 13 to 15mm, worker 11 to 16mm.
The nests are usually made underground and always under cover. Queens searching for suitable nesting sites may be observed March to May. Mature nests contain around 100 workers. Barbut’s Cuckoobee (Bombus barbutellus) takes over the nests of B. hortorum, of which it looks very similar, but it is not nearly as widespread.
The males appear in June, and they are found in many habitats, especially gardens. They regularly visits foxglove (Digitalis), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), and Dead-nettle (Lamium). A widespread and abundant species.
June 2007, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2007.
Flower Bee II
Now this is quite a curious bee I discovered visiting my garden. Sometimes called the ‘Hairy- footed Flower Bee’, the female of this fast-flying solitary bee is jet black, whilst the male is largely gingery-brown with a bright yellow face. Long-tongued bee. Size 14 to 17mm.
The nests are built in the ground and in the loose mortar of old walls. Feeds on nectar and pollen, and is a good pollinator.
They are seen March to June, although rarely seen in June. Found in flower-rich pastures, including gardens, where Common Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) is a favourite flower. Distributed throughout much of England and Wales, especially south. Absent from Scotland and Ireland.
Male, top three images taken April 2007, and female bottom three images taken March 2012, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2007 and 2012.
Sometimes called the ‘European Honey Bee’, this is the most familiar of all our bees. It is the male drones that we usually see buzzing around the flower borders in summer. They vary from bright honey coloured to grey or dark brown, for Apis mellifera (translates as ‘honey carrying bee’) covers several subspecies or tribes. Sizes queen 16mm, drone 16mm, worker 12mm.
Widely domesticated bee and associated with artificial hives manufacturing honey, wax, and other products. They communicate with the language of dance. Essential pollinator of commercial crops and providers of honey and wax.
Apart form the man-made hives, they generally nest in the hollows of trees, which are constructed from wax. Each nest may contain thousands upon thousands of bees. Feed on nectar and pollen.
Seen early spring until late into the autumn. Found in a wide range of habitats, especially gardens. Nests usually found in woodland. Widespread and abundant. Native to Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Populations have suffered depletion where non-native bees have been introduced. A recent threat here in Britain is the mite Varroa jacobsoni which has caused devastation to colonies after its introduction in 1992.
July 204 and 15, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014 and 2015. Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
Barbut’s Cuckoo Bumblebee
Both sexes have two yellow stripes on the thorax and one on the abdomen with a white tail. They have sparse hairs and the wings are darker. The facial hairs on the male are black. Size 15 to 19mm.
A cleptoparasitic bee of the nests of the Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum).
Females searching for hosts to parasitise are seen in April to May. Males and females on flowers in July and August. Found in many habitats, including gardens. Not generally common, but widely distributed in southern England and in west Wales.
July 2013, local field, Staffordshire. Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2013.
This is a wasp-like cuckoo-bee which has a black and yellow striped abdomen with reddish markings at the front, a reddish striped thorax, and red legs and antennae. Size 12mm.
Nomada flava is a cleptoparisitic bee of mining bees, where the female lays its eggs so the hatching larva will develop there, killing the host larva.
Seen April to May, and found in a variety of flower-rich habitats, including meadows, hedgerows, verges and gardens. Common and widespread in England and Wales.
May 2012, rear garden, Staffordshire. Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2012.
I remember the very first time I encountered these large ants. It was on a school camping trip back in 1976 at the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. I was fascinated not only by their size and colour, but by the huge anthills they had buit to house their colonies. This experience would stay with me into adulthood, and fuel my interest and fascination for the natural world.
Also called the ‘Red Wood Ant’, the ‘Southern Wood Ant’, or the ‘Horse Ant’, this is one of the UK’s largest species of ant. The workers are brownish-red and black. There are several similar species so one has to take care in identification. Length worker 8 to 10mm, queen 12mm.
They are most active during the summer months. This ant has no sting, but can shoot formic acid from its abdomen when threatened or disturbed. It can also bite fiercely. Wood Ants are omnivores, but with a preference for other insects and invertebrates, although they are mainly scavengers
Found mainly in coniferous woodland, building large nests from pine needles, grass and twigs. Widespread but localised in England and Wales, found mainly in the south and south-east of England. It is absent from Ireland and Scotland.
Photographs of Wood Ant (Formica Rufa), taken May 2013, Wyre Forest, Worcestershire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
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.
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.
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.
This sawfly is a striking yellow wasp mimic, with a large bright yellow band across its abdomen, which is larger in the males. It also has yellow markings on the thorax, head and legs. Dark patches on wing margins. Length 12 to 16mm.
The larvae feed on grasses.
It flies May to late summer, and it is found along hedgerows and woodland rides, and in meadows where they maybe seen feeding and mating on umbelliferous flowers. A common and widespread species, except for the far north.
Photographs of Tenthredo maculata, taken June 2013, local woodland path, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
Honey Bee Nest
On my walks through the wood yesterday I came across this Honey Bee nest in an old tree hollow. They were busy toing and froing, quite busy in their endeavours.
Photograph of Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) nest, taken October 2016, local wood, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
Red Mason Bee
A small solitary bee with golden yellowish to orangish hairs. The male has pale facial hair, whilst the female has black. Up to 14mm in length. It is called the Red Mason Bee for it rakes out old, loose mortar between bricks in walls to construct its nest cells before rendering them over again, but does not strictly utilise mortar cavities, but will use any cavity available.
In the early spring the females will mate then find a natural hollow or man-made one, having a particular liking to mortar in old walls. It will then make cells with mud and store collected pollen or nectar then lay a single egg in each cell. The hole is usually plugged before the female moves off to find another suitable cavity. The entombed larva will then remain in the cavity until the following spring when it will emerge as an adult. These bees are hardy to severe winters. Non aggressive bees which will not sting unless harmed. They are excellent early spring pollinators, especially of fruits. Feeds on nectar and pollen.
Seen April to July in many habitats, including gardens. Very common in southern Britain.
Photographs of Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis) taken in May 2015, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
Cherry Gall Wasp
These marble like galls measuring up to 25mm in diameter are found beneath the leaves of Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) and Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea). Cynips quercusfolii is a tiny black gall wasp, and within the plant gall its larva stage grows. On Pedunculate Oak the gall is smooth where on Sessile Oak it is rough and warty. They start off as yellowish-green, turning pink then red towards autumn. It turns brown just before the leaves fall.
The gall and the wasp larva inside matures on the ground and the adult wasp emerges between late autumn and early spring. Eggs are laid in the dormant oak buds where small purple galls are formed. These will bring forth the sexual generation which emerge in late spring and lay their eggs in the new season’s leaves to start the process over again. Seen summer until autumn. Common and widespread.
Photographs of Cherry Gall Wasp (Cynips quercusfolii), taken June and October 2013, local wood and nature reserve. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.
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.
This is our largest bumblebee and is sometimes known as the ‘Large Earth Bumblebee’. It is usually the first to emerge after hibernation. The queen has a distinctive dirty white to orangey tail, and deep yellow thoracic and abdominal bands. The tongue is very short. Queen 19 to 22mm, male 14 to 16mm, worker 11 to 17mm.
Because of its short tongue this bee has developed a special ability to reach the nectar deep within flower heads by biting a hole at the base of the corolla and then drinking through it. These bees can apparently navigate their way back to a nest from 13km (8 miles) away! Important pollinators, especially of fruit trees, raspberries and blueberries. The nests are built in a variety of locations, but usually underground and always undercover. Large nests may contain over 300 workers. The Vestal Cuckoo-bee (Bombus vestalis) is a cleptoparasitic bee which invades the nests and looks very similar. Feeds on nectar and pollen.
Emerging as early as February in the south. Found in many habitats, and a regular visitor to gardens. A common and very widespread species, not only throughout Britain but also Europe. But not in the far north, and scarce in Scotland.
Photographs of Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), taken September 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.
Just Hanging On
Down At The Watering Hole
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
They are at it again. I have posted on these previously this year, and these sawfly larvae, called Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana), are stripping my rose-bush leaves again. They seem to be very methodical in their consumption of the leaves, completely stripping individual leaves bare before moving onto others, leaving ravaged skeleton stalks behind them. They must be another generation.
But if the little birds catch site of them, they are a good source of protein.
Please see my previous posts ‘Balancing Act’ and ‘Life In A Week’ for more information.
Photograph of Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana), taken August 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens with softbox flash diffuser.
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.
Life In A Week
It’s amazing how things can change in just one week, especially if you are an insect. Last week I posted ‘Balancing Act’, which showed these caterpillars in an early stage of development, and after one week of almost continuous feasting on my rose-bush leaves how they have grown and changed.
These are Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana) larvae, and how bright yellow and distinctly marked they have become within just a short period of time. They can grow up to 25mm in length. By the end of this month they will have dropped from the rose leaves to bury themselves in the earth. Pupation will take place in a very short time, and at the start of August the brightly yellow coloured adults will emerge to begin the cycle over again.
With its all black coat apart from the bright red tail from where the English name originates, this is Britain’s most distinctive bee. A large, slender bee, the male has a yellow collar. The queens grow up to 22mm in length, and the workers up to 16mm in length.
The nests are made in a variety of different places, usually in open areas underground, beneath large rocks, or in wall cavities. Large, mature nests may contain up to 150 workers. Young nests may be taken over by the cleptoparasitic bee Bombus rupestris. Feeds on nectar and pollen. It will sting if its nest is threatened. An important pollinator of oil-seed rape crops.
Queens emerge from hibernation fairly late compared to other species of bumblebee. Found in arable fields, gardens and chalk downland. Common and widespread.
Photographs taken March 2014 and May 2015, rear garden, Staffordshire.
Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana) larvae
Another species of sawfly on my roses, and I believe these may only be young instars. There are two species of large rose sawfly in Britain, this species being the more common of the two, the other being Arge ochropus. Sawfly have good balancing skills, and to ward off predators they jerk their tail ends around in the air.
The adults, which I have seen flying around the garden, are quite distinctive and have bright yellow abdomens. The female makes a tiny saw cut in plant tissue in which she will lay her eggs. The resulting caterpillars will feed in groups, and they can strip leaves quite rapidly if in large numbers.
Two to three generations of Large Rose Sawfly maybe produced from May to October. They are seen in parks and gardens, also hedgerows, anywhere where rose occurs. Common and widespread.
Photographs taken July 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire.