Ctenichneumon panzeri type of Ichneumon wasp
Ichneumonidae is one of the largest families of organisms in the world – it contains an estimated 100,000 species, more species than all vertebrates combined. If you’re not impressed by sheer numbers, the thing that I find truly amazing about all that species richness is the amount of variation in life history that has come along with all that diversification.
As I may have mentioned in the past “with around 6,000 species parasitic wasps make up by far the greatest proportion of Hymenoptera in Britain and they remain sorely under-researched, not least because some are incredibly small, less than one millimetre in length, and collection and identification are tricky in the extreme.”
There are several species of Ruby-tailed wasps in the UK. The head and thorax are a dazzling greenish-blue, and the abdomen is a firey red. In bright sunlight the vivid metallic colours of their bodies appear very jewel-like.
Ruby-tailed wasps lay their eggs in the nests of other solitary bees and wasps. When they find a possible nest to lay their eggs they checkout the entrance to make sure no one is home. If they are unlucky and the owner is home they are well equipped to defend themselves with tough body cuticle to protect them from stings. Also the underside of their abdomen is concave which enables them to curl up into a ball.
If no one is home, they check to see the nest is well stocked with food, and then they reverse in and lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch, the emerging larvae eat the host bee or wasp larvae. For this reason they are sometimes called ‘Cuckoo Wasps’. They remain in the nest until they are fully developed and then emerge the following spring as adult wasps.
Length: 8-16 mm. A sexually dimorphic species. The female has a white tip to the abdomen, a white mark at the base of the thorax, and white banded antennae. The male is markedly different with yellow and black legs and abdomen, a bright yellow scutellum and no bands on the antennae.
Hedgerows and well wooded areas.
When to see it
March to November
Badly under recorded – hardly any British records exist for this species.