Bees/Wasps/Ichneumons/Sawflies/Ants

(Order: Hymenoptera)





Brown Bumblebee/Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum) (Parklands Country Club, South West Glasgow)

These bees are the only ones to have completely thick ginger hairy thoraxes. Supposedly, these bumble bees have rather long tongues which have the advantage of being able to reach deep into bell shaped flowers. Carder bees are also supposed to be one of the friendlier and least aggressive bees – rarely stinging, although I wouldn’t test this theory out myself.







Early Bumblebee (male top, mating bottom) (Bombus pratorum) (Parklands Country Club, South West Glasgow)

Due to large number of species and the variation in colouring that occurs, I find all bumblebees difficult to tell apart, but this one is perhaps one of the slightly more distinct ones.  The male early bumblebee (or early-nesting bumblebee) has this shaggy yellow collar and yellow waistband (although the yellow is sometimes missing) and in particular a conspicuous orangey-red tail. This bumblebee is common throughout the UK. It is known to breed in odd places, often breeding in old bird-boxes or in old piles of rubbish.  Here, they're breeding on a leaf instead! Unless provoked, these bees are friendly docile. creatures.






 Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) (Patterton, South West Glasgow)

An attractive looking bee. Whilst I find most bees difficult to tell apart, this one seems relatively distinctive, with orangey-brown hairs on its thorax, black abdomen, its distinctive white tail and black head. This only colonised Britain in 2000, and it seems to have slowly worked its way up to Scotland, but it still doesn't seem to be terribly common up here as yet.





Red-tailed Bumlebee  (female worker) (Bombus lapidaries) (Pollock Estate, South West Glasgow)

A lovely little bee which is quite distinctive due to its orangey-red tail. This species also has black pollen baskets which distinguishes it from the similar-looking bee Bombus ruderarius. The female worker bee, as here, is black all over except for its 'tail'. The queen looks very similar but much larger. The male worker bee also has the orange-red tail but has yellow hair near its head. This bee went from dandelion to dandelion collecting pollen. Each time it landed the flower head swayed, making getting a sharp photo a real challenge.








White-tailed Bumlebee (Bombus lucorum)(Darnley Country Park, Darnley, South West Glasgow)

These bees are very common throughout Scotland and the UK although there is concern that their numbers are dwindling  They are large and this one has a yellow-orange 'collar' and a less strongly yellow coloured 'waist' and a white 'tail'. There are similar species, but this is the most common. These nest below the ground. There are distinctions in appearance between the males, the workers and the queens, but I'm afraid I always struggle to see the distinctions between them, but there are websites (such as the Bumblebee Conservation Trust) which show photos and drawings to help you distinguish between them.






 Red Mason Bee (female) (Osmia bicornis)(Patterton, South West Glasgow)

This was found early in the year in mid-May hovering round and landing on this dead tree. It's quite a small, dishevelled looking bee, with scraggy white hairs on its thorax, although it abdomen is quite a striking brown colour. In fact, it is called red mason bees because of its liking for old walls, rather than because of its colour. It is a solitary, non-honey making bee which makes its nest in pre-existing cavities in walls and presumably dead trees. It seems like this species is quite common in England, though quite a bit rarer up here in Scotland. Apparently, its Latin name was Osmia rufa before it was changed to its current name. 







Bee (Bombus sp.)(possibly Bombus magnus or similar)

It is fairly unusual to see a bumble bee that is just black and white with no yellow or orange hairs at all.  However, this bumble probably did have yellow or orange hairs which have just faded. It is difficult to identify this precisely.









Buff-tailed Bumlebee (Bombus terrestris) (Patterton, South West Glasgow)

Again not sure about the identification of this one, but it does have the deep yellow/orange collar and 2nd abdominal segment of the Bombus terrestris. The tail of a buff-tailed bumlebee is often white in workers, but is buff or off-white in queens which are large at around 2cms.






 Bee  (possibly Andrena nigroaenea or similar) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

At first I thought this was a leafcutter bee, but an expert in the field commented that the wingveins ruled this out and that it was more likely to be a very worn and faded Andrena nigroaenea. I seem to have a habit of finding battered out old bees. Bit of a shame really as now I also have to add leafcutter bee to my wishlist of insects 'to find'.  






Mining Bee (Andrena sp.) (possibly Andrena bicolor or similar) (Back garden, South West Glasgow)

Mining bees are so called because they nearly all nest in the ground. It is difficult to determine the species without further examination, but it may be Andrena bicolor. The most distinguishing features of this bee are its hairy orangey thorax and long, hairy black abdomen with pale hairs between the segments.  All the texts seem to refer to the thorax as 'foxy brown' which I think makes the bee sound rather sexy.  It is a common mining bee which is often seen around the garden, which is where in fact I found this one. It is one of the earliest species to be seen and are solitary bees which do not live in colonies.









Early Mining Bee (female)(Andrena haemorrhoid) (Patterton, South West Glasgow)

Another mining bee like the one above, although the hairs on this bee's thorax are far more obviously 'foxy brown' than the one above. It is the female that has this strong colouring, whereas the males have lighter coloured hairs like the one above. In fact, the tip of this one's abdomen is also brown in colour, although unfortunately, you can't see that here and I didn't want to disturb it as it was 'asleep' at the time. Apparently, whilst insects are generally active during the day or during the night, the don't in fact 'sleep' but 'rest'. This state of rest is known as 'torpor' and during a period of torpor, the insect's body temperature and metabolic rate reduce. This is the state that enables animals to hibernate. I don't know if these are called 'early' mining bees because of the time of year they can be found, but the bee resting on the trunk of a tree in the photos on the bottom was found in mid-April - pretty early for Scotland!









Common wasp (Vespula vulgari) (Pollok Country Park, South Glasgow)

Don’t suppose there’s much I can say about wasps that you don’t already know. Their nests are often holes in the ground, but sometimes they nest in houses. The common wasp displays the typically narrow ‘waist’, as can just about be seen in the photo on the right. It has prominent antennae and can be distinguished from other species of wasp by the black anchor shape on its face – just about visible in this photo on the left.






Wasp (Ectemnius (Clytochrysus) cavifrons)

I am not certain about the identification of this wasp as I only got a chance to get one photo of it before it fly off never to return and so it's not the sharpest photo in the world. However, it has the two yellow 'dashes' behind its head, this very distinctive shape, the dark and yellow legs and abdomenal yellow stripes that don't quite meet in the middle. It was also found on this old dead tree which seems to be fairly typical for this species as they nest in burrows in decaying wood. These wasps prey on hoverflies. Whilst it seems that this species of wasp is fairly common and widespread in England, the records seem to show that within Scotland, it is only found around the Edinburgh area - which is rather peculiar.







Ruby tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita or similar) (Brighouse Bay Campsite, Kirkcudbright)

Ok - these photos are so bad, they shouldn't really be going on the website at all, but ruby tailed wasps are apparently very common, so I felt I should include this one for identification purposes. There are a number of very similar species that can only be identified through detailed examination (which of course this one hasn't) so all I can say with any certainty is that it's a ruby tailed wasp of some description, although Chrysis ignite is the most common. All these wasps have bright glimmering greeny-blue head and thorax and red shimmery abdomens. They are also known as jewel wasps or cuckoo wasps because they lay their eggs in the nest of masons wasps or other insects. When the ruby tailed wasps hatch, the larvae then eat larvae of the mason wasps or other insect. I had seen many photos of this insects before I actually managed to eventually find one and it was much, much smaller than I was expecting - only about 6 - 8 mms in length. 








Sawfly (Tenthredo  sp.) (possibly Tenthredo colon or similar) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

Sawflies are so called due to the saw-like appearance of the females ovipositor.  The females use this appendage to cut into plants where they can then lay their eggs. A sawfly has a thick waist which distinguishes it from an ichneumon wasp which has a very narrow, defined waist. Having said that, I’ve seen this insect many times but never been able to get a decent photo of it yet to ensure it has the broad waist you would expect.



  



Sawfly (female) (Tenthredo sp.) (possibly Tenthredo livida or similar) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

The first thing you notice about this quite a large insect is the white tips to its antennae. With its wings closed the only other noticeable feature is the brown tint to its wings and its large shiny black eyes. However, when it opens its wings, it may have, as here in the middle photo (but needn't have), a reddish-brown tip to its abdomen and black and white stigmata (or pterostigma) on the edges of the wings.  Some of these sawflies' abdomen are entirely black.  The female, as here, can be seen on the photo on the right, has a white spot on each side of her abdomen. Also, if you look closely at the photo in the middle, you can see it has a peculiar white mouth.









Sawfly (Tenthredo sp.) (possibly Tenthredo notha or similar) (Waterfoot, South West Glasgow)


This sawfly is very similar to two other species and would need a proper expert to identify it definitively. Although sawflies are related to wasps, and some such as this one certainly look like them, they are harmless to humans and don’t sting. The upper thorax has black and yellow stripes and the male is all yellow underneath. The wings have a brownish tinge to them and the eyes are large and bulging.









Sawflies (Tenthredinidae sp.)? (Brighouse Bay, Kirkcudbright)

This sawfly  has an orange abdomen and a black head and thorax.   The wings have black edges. It often feeds on the nectar and pollen of these plants. It is difficult to identify this without further examination.








Sawfly (possibly Athalia circularis or similar) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

This looks like the sawflies above, and there are a number of almost identical looking sawflies. The ones above have striped legs, whereas this sawfly's legs are all yellow. Again, the wings have dark edges, and one particular feature of this sawfly is its all black thorax. Some species have 'harlequin-like' orange and black thoraxes.








Sawfly (possibly Rhogogaster veridis or similar) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow)

One of several very similar species. It may be a Rhogogaster sp. but would need further examination to be certain and I cannot say much more than 'sawfly' with any accuracy. Having said all that, it was quite a shock to see a fairly large all green fly like this with bright green metallic eyes and peculiar black markings on its head and thorax and wings. On the death of these sawflies, the green fades to yellow. Supposedly these are fairly common throughout the UK, but I’ve only seen this sawfly on one occasion, so perhaps it’s less common in Scotland.








Sawfly (possibly Tenthredo mesomelas or similar) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glagow)

This sawfly is pretty eye-catching - due to its sheer size and unusual apple-green abodomen and scuttelum (spot at the back of the thorax). At first I was convinced this must be some species of Rhogogaster as it is clearly a variation on a theme of the sawfly above. However, because its stigmata (markings on its wings) are black rather than green, it may be a Tenthredo sp. There are quite a number of very similar looking sawflies and you can go round in circles for hours trying to find a match. The interesting thing about this sawfly is that as well as eating pollen/nectar, it eats small flies as well, unlike most sawflies which are herbivorous (feed only on plants).







 Pear Sawfly (top photo adult, bottom photos pear slug larvae) (possibly Caliroa cerasi or similar) (Rouken Glen Park, South West Glasgow) 

A fairly large robust looking insect with a stout abdomen which is entirely black. The adult sawfly is rarely seen. The larvae seem to be better known than the adults and damage fruit trees.  As you can see from the photos at the bottom, the larvae are slug-like creatures covered in slime which 'skeletonize' leaves by eating the leaf and leaving the veins, as you may just about make out from the photo on the right. In fact these pear slugs looks quite pink, but there are usually shiny black. Not very attractive slimy looking things - they don't look very appetising to me, and indeed it appears they don't look very appetising to predators either.







  


Cimbicid Sawfly (Auchindrain, Argyll)

I really had no idea what this was the first time I saw it.  It looked like a bee without hairs or stripes. It was only after some digging around that I found it was probably a Cimbicid sawfly.  This species' wings are tinged yellow with noticable black margins.  The abdomen is large, black and hairless although the head and thorax seem to have sparse white hairs.  The legs are orange.  Its four wings can clearly be seen in the photograph on the left. The most distinguishing feature is its clubbed antennae which I understand is common to all such sawflies. It seemed unperturbed by my taking a photo of it and although it looks pretty ferocious, it cannot sting.







  
Ichneumon Wasp (Ichneumon sp.) (possibly Ichneumon suspiciosus or similar) (Brighouse Bay Holiday Park, Kirkcudbright)

Ichneumon wasps are slender insects with even more narrow ‘waists’ and long antennae. Most larvae are internal parasites that eventually kill their hosts. This species has a red band on its abdomen, a cream spot on its scutellum, where the wings attach, and cream spots at the tip of its abdomen.  It also has a narrow cream band on each antennae.  The legs are striped black and red. Its larvae parasitize moth caterpillars.         






      

Ichneumon Wasp (Haemorrhoicus sp.) (possibly Haemorrhoicus crassigena or similar) (Kilmartin, Argyll)

Doesn’t this make you want to go wow? The large bands of black and yellow on its thorax as well as its striped legs and long antennae make this a stunningly beautiful creature. This ichneumon wasp was perfectly happy to continue feeding on pollen unperturbed by a camera being pointed at it at close range. Unlike most ichneumon wasps it does not possess a sting and so is perfectly harmless to humans.








Ichneumon Wasp (Ichneumon sp.) (possibly Ichneumon insidiosus or similar) (Kilmartin, Argyll)

Another stunning ichneumon wasp with shiny black head, thorax and lower abdomen.  Its legs are yellowy-orange and black.  But the obvious feature is the broad bright terracotta band on its abdomen. This is a male feeding on Laserpitium latifolium.









Short-tailed Ichneumon Wasp (Netelia sp.) (Brighouse Bay, Kirkcudbright)

On the basis that insects don’t have tails, it seems a bit baffling to me to call this a short-tailed ichneumon wasp, particularly as the abdomen, which looks a bit like a tail, isn’t short at all.  I’m sure someone can enlighten me. This species is reddish-brown and has very long antennae.  It parasitizes the caterpillars of moths and the female will try to ‘sting’ you with its ovipositor if you try to handle it.  Who in their right might would try to handle one of these…?








Ichneumon Wasp (Icnneumon sp.) (possibly Ichneumon stramentarius or similar) (Brighouse Bay Holiday Park, Kirkcudbright)

I was camping with friends when I took this photo so had to do it on the sly otherwise my street cred would have gone straight out of the plastic window. This insect has a broad white band on its antennae, a white spot at the base of its thorax, three joined up white blobs at the base of its abdomen (which are just visible here) and an orangey- brown segment at the top of it abdomen. Its legs appear to be striped black at the top, followed by a stripe of yellow and then brown at the base.








Ichneumon Wasp (Helconidea sp.)(possibly Helconidea ruspator or similar)

A stunning and very majestic looking all black insect with bright orange legs and long antennae. The female of this species has a long narrow ovipositor which is completely absent in the male, as in the photo on the left. This species has the distinguishing features of having noticeable larger and redder hind legs and a long narrow waist. I have no idea what species the mating ichneumon wasps are on the right, but I have included it here as I haven't come across this strange mating position in insects before. It is slightly reminiscent of the damselfly mating wheel, but the male here is not clasping the female's neck but curving his abdomen underneath him. Weird, but as ever, wonderful.








Ichneumon Wasp

Another beautiful ichneumon wasp, but unfortunately one I can’t identify for the life of me.  It clearly has orange legs, a black pterostigma on each wing and white triangular markings down its abdomen.  Florin Feneru at the Natural History Museum has very helpfully told me that this ichneumon wasp is a species of the subfamily Tryphoninae, tribe Exenterini, but that it is difficult to tell from these photos what species it is.  And interestingly, I was also informed that this tribe comprises ectoparasitoids of sawfly larvae. 








Ichneumon Wasp (female) (Beside Mearns Road, Whitecraigs, South West Glasgow)

A tiny female ichneumon wasp less than a centimetre long, but with a beautiful long ovipositor and antennae.  So many ichneumons are black with some orange somewhere on their bodies that it is well neigh impossible to identify them.  This ichneumon appeared to have no stigmata (or pterostigma) on its wings.  The only distinguishing feature about this wasp is its white ring at the tip of its abodmen. Please let me know if you have any ideas about what species this may be.








Ichneumon Wasp (Rhyssa peruasoria) (Mull, Argyll)

This is an absolutely terrible photo, but I only had one shot at it before it flew off, never to be seen again. The only reason for including it is that it's one of the more distinctive ichneumon wasps and it is also the largest in Scotland and in fact Europe, growing up to 4cms in length. The female has an extremely long ovipositor which can add another 4cms onto its length. She uses her ovipositor (which is no thicker than a human hair) to drill into wood and parasitise the larvae of horntails which it somehow manages to pinpoint through the wood. The wasp larvae then eats its host - what a way to begin! I can't even tell whether this is a female but both the male and the female of this ichneumon wasp have a black body with yellow or white spots and stripes and red legs which if you expand the photo enough (and you can stand the blurriness) you may just about make out.









Wood Ant (Formica rufa) (Abernethy Nature Reserve, near Loch Garten)

This really was a sight to behold. This massive domed anthill had what looked like thousands of ants crawling all over it, some of them hauling pines needles and other vegetation, some carrying large beetles, whilst many were just rushing around like there was no tomorrow. The ants also had routes leading in and out of mound, one of them going up a nearby tree. It is incredible to think that such tiny creatures are somehow able to co-ordinate themselves and work together to build this incredible labyrinth that apparently can contain up to half a million ants at any one time. These ants have black heads and abdomens and orange thoraxes. They have a fearsome bite and can spray formic acid from their rear ends when attacked.










Black Ant (Formica sp.)(possibly Formica lemani or similar) (garden, South West Glasgow)

It is difficult to identify these ants precisely.  They are probably Formica lemani but Formica fusca cannot be ruled out. Taking photos of the worker ants (as on the left) is farcical as you try and more your camera along at the same speed as their persistent marching.  The non-reproductive workers are blackish-brown in colour and covered in small hairs, which unfortunately don't show in these photos. Reproductive females and males are winged and almost twice as big as the workers and are darker in colour, as can be seen in the photo on the right. The reproductive ants mate in the air after which the male dies and the female loses her wings and starts a new colony. The queen ant in the photo on the bottom can be distinguished by their large size and the 'stumps' on her thorax where her wings were - although they are difficult to see from this photo.








Red Ant (Myrmica sp.) (possibly Myrmica scabrinodis or Myrmica sabuleti or similar) (Argyll Caravan Park, Argyll)

Again, it is difficult to identify this, but it is likely to be either Myrmica scabrinodis or Myrmica sabuleti. These common ants are rather attractive looking creatures that are red or pale brown in colour with the head a slightly darker shade.  It has a rather bristly body. It has a two-segmented waist which unfortunately cannot be seen in this photo.These ants are also known as the European fire ant and are agressive creatures preferring to attack than run away from danger.  When  I held the leaf to get a better shot, it started making a bee-line for my finger which I quickly removed before I was in a position to describe in detail how the sting actually felt. I hope you appreciate this shot none-the-less as I got bitten to death by midges trying to get it!