For me, identifying an insect I don’t know is a bit of a haphazard process. Flicking through my fairly basic nature guides, using a search engine and describing what it is and looking under ‘images’ and hoping for the best, or trying to use specialist websites for moths, butterflies, bees etc.
However, every now and then I am completely stumped. I spotted this little flying insect on the floor on a drizzly day in Glastonbury, and it’s been bothering me ever since. So today I made it my mission to find a name for my mystery critter!
Firstly I looked at the coloured bands, yellow and black and went through various websites to see if anything similar popped up – all to no avail. I tried adding that it was a flying insect, or just a fly to see if that shed any light on the situation. Again, nothing that I thought was similar popped up.
But the appearance of a wasp in my search did get me thinking – the mystery bug did have the colouring of a wasp, so maybe it could be related to the wasp family?
This search seemed a lot more fruitful! I searched for ‘thin wasp uk’ and I was greeted with a picture of an Ichneumonidae.
As well as being a bit of a mouthful to say, I soon discovered that they are a parasitic wasp, who’s young feeds on the host the egg is laid on whilst alive (zombie critter!). There are over 2500 species in the UK alone! I found this helpful guide to give me more information about what I’d found.
After some more snooping, I’d discovered what I’d specifically found was a Amblyteles Armatorius male, who hosts their young in moth pupae, specifically the Yellow Underwing, where the young hatch and eat the caterpillar from the inside out. In the guide is an ID sheet and this lil fella fit the bill perfectly – a result!
Above is a photo that I found online taken by Life On An Oxfordshire Lawn, where the writer goes into greater detail about identifying Ichneumon wasps – a good read if like me you’re hearing about these for the first time!
I’m fascinated by parasitic creatures after a visit to the Natural History Museum once where they were holding a special night on cannibalism, parasites and things eating each other. Grim, but so interesting! So it’s fun to know we have so many of these insects in the UK – and now to find more of them!
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