Photographic Advent Calendar, Day 8: Ruby-tailed Wasp

For today’s post, I have chosen one of the my favourite invertebrate species from 2015…the Ruby-tailed Wasp. When some people first saw my images of this species in the spring, they couldn’t quite believe that this amazing little wasp resides in the UK; this is, however, a relatively easy species to find, coming out on warm sunny days and resting on stone walls, piles of wood, buildings and wasteground. A close look at this fidgety hymenopteran reveals a dazzling colouration scheme: the head and thorax are a metallic blue-green, contrasting to the pimpled metallic pink abdomen. Hundreds of fine hairs called chaetae adorn the body, which are its sensory apparatus through which it senses the environment, in combination with its twitching antenna and large compound eyes.

The Ruby-tailed Wasp (Chrysis ignita) is a member of the solitary wasp family called, and are often referred to as Cuckoo Wasps. As the name suggests, they are parasites of other hymenoptera species, such as Mason Bees. Adult females will seek out the nests of these bees, and will sneak inside and lay their eggs in the nest. If they are caught in the act, the Ruby-tails rely on their tough cuticle to protect them from attacks; the cuticle forms protective plates around the insect when it rolls up into an angular ball. Once they hatch out, the Ruby-tailed Wasp larvae proceed to devour the eggs and larvae of the hosts’s progeny, and eventually undergo metamorphosis to emerge as dazzling adults.

They really are remarkable species, and are a pleasure (if a little challenging) to watch and photograph.

Thanks for looking, and I hope you enjoy the next few posts 🙂

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