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No bees in here

February 1, 2023

It is summer. That means the Blue-banded Bees are in town and busily tunnelling into the lime mortar of the Butter Factory a.k.a. the Blue-banded B&B. Previous blogs have chronicled the comings and goings of these native bees and their attendant parasitoid entourage of cuckoo bees, cuckoo wasps and gasteruptid wasps.

Whilst sitting down for a coffee I noticed that a hairy insect (pictured) had wandered in from outside and across the carpet. Close examination showed that it was wingless and extremely hairy. It is because of the hair that this insect is known as a Velvet Ant (Bothriomutilla rugicollis). Velvet ant is the generic term for wasps of the family Mutillidae. As mentioned they are hairy, the male is winged and the female is wingless.

Adult velvet ants are nectar feeders however they are parasitoid in nature. After mating the female wasp searches for the nesting sites of ground-nesting bees and wasps. When it finds a nest it lays an egg near each host egg or larva. The velvet ant larvae hatch first and consume the host egg, larvae and/or food supply. These wasps are well equipped to survive the attention of predators. In addition to having an armour-plated exoskeleton, they have warning colourations, a warning sound and the female wasp has a potent sting.

The insect in question was obviously looking for the Blue-banded Bee nests but took a wrong turn and wandered inside.

Obviously better signage at the door is needed. Something like ‘Blue-banded Bees this way’ with an arrow.

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