Awesome wasps

It’s been so hot, dry and sunny here recently that I’m having coffee breaks in the cool of a shed. Last week, over a couple of days, I watched a mason wasp industriously building a little nest in the angle of the shed’s roof timbers. The wasp would sometimes fly in with mud to build up the cell; and sometimes with something green – which I’m guessing would be a caterpillar for the new wasp to eat when it hatches.

Mason wasp cells in shed roof. They look like what they are – bits of mud pushed together! In the unfinished cell on the left you might just be able to make out something green lying inside – the caterpillar food supply for when the new wasp hatches.
A mason wasp


Then part way through building the second cell, another mason wasp arrived and seemed to be hassling the original wasp. That second cell went unfinished. And I haven’t seen those type of wasps since.

Then today, as I was drinking my coffee, I saw something scurrying around up where the mason wasp had worked. When I went to investigate, I found this stunning little wasp.

A ruby tailed wasp – a type of cuckoo wasp that has sabotaged the mason wasp’s nest.

As far as I can tell this is a ruby tailed wasp – aptly named. But although it is beautiful, it is a bad wasp from the mason wasp’s perspective. The ruby tail wasp is a “cuckoo” wasp. It will lay its egg by the mason wasp’s egg and when the ruby tail hatches it will eat the mason wasp and the caterpillar that was meant for it.

Another wasp that impressed me through the winter was (I think) just a common wasp (Vespula vulgaris). It crawled into one of the bamboo tubes of a “bug hotel” in the autumn. And it stayed in there all winter. I often thought it must’ve been dead. Most of the time it was lying on its back. Sometimes it seemed to have shifted a bit, but I put that down to the wind blowing it around. The “hotel” provided scant shelter for the wasp and our winter has been unseasonably harsh. Nevertheless back in April, the wasp woke up. It seemed to spend a couple of days chewing on something at the back of the bamboo tube. And then it spent another couple of days coming and going to and from the same hole. Then it disappeared – happily, because I wouldn’t have wanted it nesting too nearby.

An overwintered wasp emerging from its winter hiding place

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