Rob Coleman's picture

Sand digger wasp

Observed: 17th August 2011 By: Rob ColemanInvertebrates expert
ammophila 1
ammophila 1 1
ammophila 1 1 2
ammophila 1 1 2 3
ammophila 1 1 2 3 4
ammophila 1 1 2 3 4 5
Description:

These sand wasps are common on many heaths and dunes but I've never observed their fascinating behaviour until last week. This series of pictures shows the wasp; locating a buried moth caterpillar; excavating it out; stinging it (I think to paralyse rather than egg-laying but I may be wrong; dragging it off; placing it in another hole (presumably with its larvae) and covering its tracks.

Identifications
Species interactions

No interactions present.

Comments

Ents's picture

Wow!

That must have been amazing to see. Great series of photos.

Michael Skelton's picture

Sand Wasp

The caterpillar is that of the Comma butterfly. It's puzzling behaviour. the fact that the caterpillar was buried suggests that the wasp is moving a previously buried larva, or else is stealing an item buried by another wasp. Ammophia sabulosa is said to provision its nest with non-hairy caterpillars; the Comma larva is distinctly spiny.

Rob Coleman's picture

Thanks for the caterpillar

Thanks for the caterpillar ID. Apparently these wasps are strongly kleptoparasitic and spend as much time searching for larvae buried by other wasps as they do hunting new ones.

Rob Coleman