Wednesday, June 04, 2014

A jewel of a cuckoo wasp...

Another day, another blog update and although I like to think that all of my finds are special, every so often something amazing appears and then it's down to me to try and do it justice with my photographic skills.

Imagine then how pleased and excited I was to see this beautiful little wasp...

It's a ruby-tailed wasp. Ruby-tailed wasps belong to the order Hymenoptera, that includes sawflies, bees and wasps. Here in the U.K. we have a number of species that are difficult to tell apart with any degree of certainty.
They are all are beautifully coloured, red, blue, green and bronze metallic colours. Their abdomens are usually a ruby red colour which gives the wasps their name ‘ruby-tail’. These wasps are solitary meaning they do not live in large social nests.

Being barely 10mm in length, they can be difficult to spot. You can often see them running over walls and tree trunks. This one I assume may have been sleeping when I spotted it on oak fencing, as it had its antennae tucked underneath. I have seen them before but struggled to get pictures as they are usually very fast.

As a parasite they require another species for part of their life cycle, mainly mason bees and other solitary bees.
The wasp reverses into the hosts nest hole and lays its eggs next to the host eggs. The wasp eggs hatch into larvae, which eat the newborn host species. The unsuspecting adult host returns to seal its nest hole, never knowing what is inside! This is why this wasp is also known as a cuckoo wasp. The larva complete their development inside the nest and the adults emerge the following spring.

Pebble prominent moth caterpillar

A close-up of that face

And a cropped version

This larva of the moth Notodonta ziczac (great name) is quite common and one I see most years feeding on willow (Salix) with its tail end held up in a characteristic pose that has the effect of making it look like the head end.

It can get to a reasonable size, I made a point of attempting to measure this one and at full stretch it was close to 40mm.

24-Spot ladybird larva

If you thought 'ziczac' was a great name then check this one out-the 24-spot ladybird has this splendid moniker:Subcoccinella vigintiquattuorpunctata, now that might be a very intelligent and descriptive name but I doubt I could even pronounce it-as for remembering how to spell it...or even just remembering it!

The ladybird itself is our only vegetarian species, not only that, it is our only hairy, vegetarian species.

Eurygaster testudinaria
These large shieldbugs are often known as Tortoise Bugs. Again, I find these most years and increasingly they are appearing locally. What interested me about this couple is that I have not photographed them in cop before and allied to that, what struck me was that it's the larger female here that has the really striking markings and colour.

And....that then got me wondering if all the previous finds of colourful individuals amounted to them all being females? I know the colour and intensity can vary quite a lot but I am going to be as observant as possible with future finds to put my theory to the test.

Kybos cf. betullae 

I have been seeing a large number of hopper nymphs of late; it's that time of year again. Some are very tricky to try and identify though, as is the case with the one pictured above. It is one of those that requires dissection to be sure but it was found on willow which is a help, although not sufficient to be completely sure of a full ID.

Here's another, maybe this is the same species? They were both on birch...

This little one seems to have picked up a rather gruesome parasite...

 More hopper nymphs...

This one is Javesella species, very small, about 3-4mm and probably an adult rather than a nymph...

Whilst sorting through some old photographs for another project recently, I came across the following picture of a grasshopper that I'd forgotten all about and so,I'll share it here as my final picture for this update...

Until the next time then...

(My latest contribution to Magnet magazine is HERE)


  1. Your photos are stunning especially the Cuckoo Wasp, would love to see this insect. I do look forward to seeing what you find.
    Weather not looking good so hope to catch up on my Bug posts..
    Amanda x

    1. Thank-you again Amanda...yes the wasp is a stunning creature for sure. Pleased you find something of interest in my blog updates. Weather not much here either today so no photos for me ;-(

  2. Wonderful finds and shots. Specially those cuckoo wasp, ziczac and that ladybird larva. All very beautiful.

  3. Wowsa! Some fabulous bugs there and great photography. Amanda Peters just told me to check out you bugs and here I am. :-) I saw a jewel wasp recently but I could not get close and had to just take photos from about 6 foot away zoomed in, so not very good! Love that cat too and parasitism is really fascinating no matter how gruesome (I'm a bit of a bug nut too). Glad I discovered your blog. :-)

    1. Thanks for your interest and comments-yes those wasps can be frustrating to photograph, I have seen lots over the years but seldom got close enough for photos. Pleased to find another bug-nut! ;-)

  4. Jewel wasps are amazing to look at. Not always very obliging, though!

    1. Hi Rachel-how strange that you should have chosen this update to comment on, I was just looking at your Zenfolio site today, although when I tried a second time it wasn't available ;-)

      Yes, these wasps are superb and you have to wonder why nature made them so bright? Not the normal warning colours?

      Good to hear from you.

  5. Almost missed this entry! Thank goodness I didn't though! Wow!
    That wasp is spectacular! They're so incredibly hard to approach!

    So green about the Tortoise bugs as well... I so want to find some but despite looking in many locations, I've drawn a blank. One day! :-)

    Love the caterpillar! Such a bizarre looking one! Reminds me of the Lobster moth which I would also love to find one day.

    Can't sign off without mentioning the bejewelled grasshopper either! What a stonker!!!




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