Friday, 30 August 2013

Ammophila sabulosa - Caterpillar Hunting on Budby Heath

I'll just let the series of photographs tell the story.   One unlucky caterpillar gets entombed alive on Budby Heath Nottinghamshire and  one impressive and stunning solitary wasp, Ammophila sabulosa gets to work. Surely one of best insects the UK has to offer.  If you click on an image you can see them in larger format. Hope you enjoy them, I certainly liked observing them. 

1. The wasp.  Ammophila sabulosa.  If it has a common name I'm not sure what it is and to be honest I'm not too bothered, just googled it, apparently known as the "red banded sand wasp". not very descriptive particularly when there are other wasps of similar appearance living in sandy environments.    Ammophila has to make a good job of entombing the caterpillar as other Ammophila will come along and steal the caterpillar from the hole and reintern in a hole of its own construction with one of its own eggs.  

2. Catch yourself a caterpillar and drag it several yards to a pre-prepared hole. 

3. Get to your hole and admire your handiwork. 

4. Admire your capture, Make sure it's paralysed. 

5. Give it a cuddle.   "It's actually positioning itself and the caterpillar" 

6. Final positioning - Lining the caterpillar up with the hole. 

7. Back yourself in, grab your prey and pull

8. Entombment begins. 

9. Reminds me of the old wartime reels showing a U-boat going down. 

10. Not quite sure how it gets itself back out past the caterpillar,  however as soon as its put the caterpillar in it starts to backfill. Notice the sand aggregate in its mandibles. 

11. A bit of back filling using its front legs to flick sand into the hole. 

12. Final tamping down - and a little visit from the bee Colletes succinctus to take a look at a job well done. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Methocha articulata - a wingless wasp that hunts Tiger beetle larvae

Late summer Tiger Beetle Budby Heath August 2013 - the larva of this beetle fall prey to the wasp Methocha articulata

Never previously recorded at Sherwood this wingless wasp paralyses larva of the green Tiger Beetle "Cicindlea campestris" in their burrows.  Its plan of attack is also a little special.  It allows the cicindelid larva to lock its jaws around its body.  However its hard exoskeleton prevents damage.  The wasp then stings the larva, paralysing it back into the larva's own burrow, where it lays an egg on the defenceless host.  Pretty impressive don't you agree.  

Methocha articulata - Budby Heath 29th August 2013 
I'm not quite sure why they have never been noted on the Heath before.  However they do not appear in the excellent list of Nottinghamshire invertebrates by Carr, published in 1916, nor in his 1930's supplement. It is also not noted on the NBN database.  In my opinion probably long overlooked, as a wingless wasp probably doesn't have the greatest powers of dispersal.  Interestingly, winged males are known.