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.

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.