Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Strange Interactions in the Insect World

We spent the morning photographing  on a sandy hillside in Bedfordshire photographing the Beewolf Wasp, Philanthus triangulum, which preys on honey bees and various other insects. The Beewolf wasps sting their prey in a membranous location on the ventral surface and the venom quickly paralyzes major voluntary muscles, yet does not kill the prey. The Beewolf carries the prey back to a tunnel, which can be as much as 1 m long. Up to 34 lateral tunnels each ending in a brood chamber branch off from the main tunnel. Each brood chamber is stocked with one to six honeybees and the female lays an egg in each.
Minute red and green Cuckoo Wasps, either Hedychrum nobile or H.niemalai, which can only be separated by looking at a specimen, were flying around the tunnel mouths. It is reported that they use species of Cerceris wasp as hosts but we only observed Philanthus so will have to look more carefully at all the black and yellow wasps next time.
There were also Pantaloon Bees (a newly invented name apparently) Dasypoda hirtipes.They have the nickname from the large back-leg baskets which when full of pollen look like pantaloos. They are parasitised by the Miltogramma fly, which I also recorded.
Finally I photographed  the black and white Common Spiny Digger Wasp Oxybelus uniglumis, which carries its prey impaled  on the sting. This no doubt has a parasite of its own
So in the words originally of Jonathan Swift
"Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.

1 comment:

Caroline Gill said...

Superb photos and excellent commentary. These creatures have also been fascinating me - as you can see here.

I saw my first Ruby-tailed Wasp at Minsmere, and since then (about 4 years ago) we have had a few in our sandy Suffolk garden each summer. See e.g. here.

Ann Miles Photography - My Favourite Images of the Past10 years or so