Monday 26 December 2022

Wildlife Review 2022 - Wasps & Sawflies


Wasps represent one of the largest insect suborders with over 6,600 species in the UK. The vast majority are parasitic, ranging in size from large 4cm ichneumons to tiny gall wasps just a couple of millimetres long. The current site audit has 183 species across many different families. The majority are very small ichneumons and braconids, identified in the past by entomologists collecting specimens for required microscopic examination. 

This year 57 species were identified, with six new for the Recording Area.

Social Wasps

Queen Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris started to appear out of hibernation from 18 Mar. Over the summer and autumn nests were very active and they were still nectaring on Ivy up to late November. When not collecting wood pulp to build nest, workers were capturing many insects including dung beetles and caterpillars. 

Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris - Alan Keatley

The first German Wasp V. germanica was picked out on 7 May, it's not as numerous as the very similar common wasp. The first Hornet Vespa crabro of the year was seen on 15 Sep with several individuals noted during September and October.

Solitary Wasps 

These started to appear from early May with Red-legged Spider Wasp Episyron rufipes on the hunt from 3rd, followed by the appropriately named Early Mason Wasp Ancistrocerus nigricornis on 5th. Red-banded Sand Wasp Ammophila sabulosa were seeking larvae to stock their burrows from 12th.

Red-legged Spider Wasp Episyron rufipes - Alan Keatley

The first digger wasp was a Common Ectemnius E. continuus on 14th, the same day as Leaden Spider Wasp Pompilus cinereus were pairing up and defending territories on areas of bare sand. Common Spiny Digger Wasp Oxybelus uniglumis were nectaring on their favoured umbellifers from 19th, with the second spider wasp of the year, Anophilus infuscatus on 22nd.

Common Ectemnius E. continuus - Alan Keatley

The end of the month saw the black and red digger wasp Dryudella pinguis hunting bugs on 26th as well as the first new species for the Recording Area, a Slender Wood-borer Trypoxylon attenuatum, a long-bodied wasp that nests in plant stems.

With the umbellifers (mainly Water-dropworts and Hogweed), in full flower, Ornate-tailed Digger Wasp Cerceris rybyensis, Three-banded Mason Wasp Ancistrocerus trifasciatus and Armed Crabro Digger Wasp Crabro peltarius were all busy nectaring from early June, whilst the ruby-tailed cuckoo wasp Chrysis ignita was searching for Ancistrocerus wasp nests.

Chrysis ignita - Alan Keatley

A second new wasp was found on 8 Jun, a White-lipped Digger Wasp Lindenius albilabris. The 10th saw the second Recording Area sighting of the nationally scarce Heath Potter Wasp Eumenes coarctatus near Langstone Rock. An unlikely migrant, the first was a female collecting material on Warren Point on Aug 2019, although no nests have yet been found. 

White-lipped Digger Wasp Lindenius albilabris - Alan Keatley

Heath Potter Wasp Eumenes coarctatus - Alan Keatley

Further digger wasps emerged during the month with Sand-tailed Digger Wasp Cerceris arenaria and Pale-footed Black Wasp Psenulus pallipes on 16th, with Slender-bodied Digger Wasp Crabro cribrarius and Trilobed Boxhead Wasp Crossocerus podagrica on 22nd. A nesting aggregation of Minute Black Wasp Diodontus minutus was active on the Dune Ridge from 25th.

Pale-footed Black Wasp Psenulus pallipes - Alan Keatley

More digger wasps emerged during July, with Spine-headed Fly Fox Crossocerus quadrimaculatus, Four-banded Hopper Wasp Gorytes quadrimaculatus, a hunter of froghoppers, and Mournful Wasp Pemphredon lugubris on 7th. Digger wasp variety continued to increase with the first Bee-wolf Philanthus triangulum on 9th, and the nationally scarce Silver Spiny Digger Wasp Oxybelus argentatus found on Wild Carrot on 10th. 

Silver Spiny Digger Wasp Oxybelus argentatus - Alan Keatley

Bee-wolf had a very good year, with a large nesting aggregation on the 18th fairway forming a new sand trap in the dry conditions! A Field Digger Wasp Mellinus arvensis was seen on the hunt for house-flies on 11th, Shieldbug Digger Wasp Astata boops on 16th, and Small-notched Mason Wasp Ancistrocerus gazella noted on 31st.

Bee-wolfPhilanthus triangulum - Alan Keatley

In August new digger wasps were still to be found with Wesmael's Digger Wasp Crossocerus wesmaeli on 23rd, Garden Ectemnius E. cavifrons on 26th and Willow Mason Wasp Symmorphus bifasciatus on 29th.

Trilobed Boxhead Wasp Crossocerus podagrica - Alan Keatley

Although social wasps appeared to be everywhere in September and October, solitary wasps were rapidly declining in number as their season came to an end. In September, records included Garden Ectemnius on the 6th, with Common Ectemnius on the 22nd. 

Even fewer species made it into October with Three-banded Mason Wasp, Trilobed Boxhead Wasp and Field Digger Wasp all still on the wing on the 6th. Intriguingly on the 13th, a Heath Potter Wasp was found in Greenland Lake, the second of the year and the third for the site, further indicating possible nesting somewhere in the Recording Area.  

Field Digger Wasp Mellinus arvensis - Alan Keatley


The last week of May saw the first ichneumon of the year; a Black Slip Wasp Pimpla rufipes on 26th. The distinctive black and yellow ichneumon Amblyteles armatorius was seen nectaring on its favoured umbellifers on 2 Jun and the large Diphyus quadripunctorius, along scrub edges on the 25th.

Amblyteles armatorius - Alan Keatley

Two species were first noted on 7 Jul, Javelin Wasp Gasteruption jaculator and the new species, White-striped Darwin Wasp Ichneumon sarcitorius, both on umbellifers. In August, Lissonata cruentator was noted on 11th and Enicospilus inflexus, a parasite of Drinker moths came to light on 14th, only the second Devon record of this widespread but under-recorded species. The last species of the year was Apechthis compunctor on 25 Sep. 

White-striped Darwin Wasp Ichneumon sarcitorius - Alan Keatley

Gall Wasps

Recording of plant galls allowed the identification of 14 species during the year. These included two new species for the Recording Area, Cottonwool Gall Wasp Andricus quercusramuli and Cola-nut Gall Wasp Andricus lignicola, both on Oak. The majority of other species were also from Oak including Ram's Horn Gall Wasp Andricus aries, Apple Gall Wasp Biorhiza pallida and Artichoke Gall Wasp Andricus foecundatris.

 Gall of the Cottonwool Gall Wasp Andricus quercusramuli - Kevin Rylands

Dawlish Warren - Wasps


Sawflies are in the same order, Hymenoptera, as bees, ants and wasps. They are often colourful insects with a close resemblance to wasps. Females lay eggs inside leaves using a "saw like" ovipositor and some are plant specific. Adults only live 7 to 9 days and are mainly seen in spring and early summer. Some species can also be recognised by their larvae, galls or leaf mines. There are 55 species on the site audit but with approximately 540 British species, plenty of potential to add more. This year 29 species were identified, 10 new for the Recording Area.

The first sawfly record of the year was an Aglaostigma aucupariae seen on 17 Mar, this early spring species is found on nettles. The second sawfly was also the first new species, Platycampus luridiventris. It's an Alder feeding sawfly and was found on vegetation under Alders on 24 Apr. On 30 Apr the first Aglaostigma fulvipes of the year was found. It shares the same habitat as A.aucupariae but generally emerges a few weeks later.

Platycampus luridiventris - Alan Keatley

May is the main month for adult sawflies emerging with no less than thirteen species found during the month. The first was Turnip Sawfly Athalia rosae on 7th. A second new species on 12th, Allentus calcaratus, associated with bramble and rose. The Bramble Sawfly Arge cyanocrcea was also recorded on 12th, with Marcophya annulata (on Dog Rose) and Tenthredo arculata (on White Clover) on 15th. 

Allentus calcaratus - Alan Keatley

On 19th the third new species was found, the Cryptic Elder Sawfly Macrophya alboannulata. On 22nd the galls of Willow Sawfly Euura bergmanni and Blennocampa phyllocolpa (on rose) were recorded along with an adult Tenthredo livida. The first Alder Sawfly Eriocampa ovata was found on 26th. Three new species for the Recording Area then came in quick succession; Rhogogaster scalaris on 26th, Red-thighed Macrophya M. rufipes on 27th and Fenella nigrita, a Cinquefoil miner, on 28th.

Cryptic Elder Sawfly Macrophya alboannulata - Alan Keatley

Red-thighed Macrophya M. rufipes - Alan Keatley

Occupied mine of Fenella nigrita - Kevin Rylands

Into June and another new sawfly was found on 2nd, a Tenthredopsis nassata. The mines of the Birch sawflies Fenusa pumila and F. nana were found on 18th, with feeding signs of Hemichora australis (on Alder and Birch) recorded on 20th. Mines of another alder sawfly species, Fenusa dohrniiHeterarthrus fiora on Sycamore and Profenusa pygmaea on Oak were all found on 1 Jul.  The last of the summer sawflies, a Dolerus aericeps (on Horsetail), another new species was recorded on 10th.

Vacated mine of Fenusa dorhnii - Kevin Rylands

A few sawflies were recorded in the autumn with a second generation Scolioneura betuleti mines on Birch on 9 Sep. A new species for the Recording Area; a second-generation Bugle Sawfly Athalia cordata was found on 19th, with second-generation Heterarthrus vagans mines on Alder, the same day. Heterarthrus ochropoda was also recognised by its leaf mine on Poplar on 22nd. The final sawfly of the year was also new for the Recording Area, a willow sawfly Euura pedunculi, recognised by its gall on 15 Oct.

Bugle Sawfly Athalia cordata - Alan Keatley

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