Wildlife never ceases to amaze

September 5th 2022

Wildlife never ceases to amaze

You wouldn’t think that a quick cuppa while sitting at the front door in the sunshine was going to be the most likely time to witness a wildlife spectacle.

We were doing the former on 17 August 2022 when we noticed that a wasp type insect kept flying about. It eventually landed on the bottom of the door and disappeared into the weather bar.

Replacing the end cap of the bar had been on the to do list for a while, you know what it’s like!

Anyway, after watching for a minute or so the wasp re-appeared and flew off. A quick look in the end of the bar revealed that about 20mm in there was a plug of hardened soil. There were four small round holes in the plug.

Next move was to get the camera. A couple of minutes later the wasp returned carrying a small green caterpillar. The wasp manipulated this dead or incapacitated caterpillar until it could get it safely into one of the chambers. Away it went again.

Within seconds an iridescent insect that had been hanging around on the house wall also flew into the weather bar and flew out again seemingly just as quickly.

What was going on inside our front door?

The first wasp was a Potter Wasp, (Ancistrocerus scoticus) and it had decided to build cells for its eggs in the small cavity offered by the lack of home maintenance. The caterpillar was its way of provisioning those cells for the larvae that would eventually hatch. A first ready meal.

And the iridescent insect? A Rubytail Wasp, also known as a Cuckoo Wasp, (probably Chrysis vanlithi). Its short mission was to wait until the Potter Wasp left the scene, dart into at least one of the cells and lay its own eggs. Its eggs will hatch before the Potter Wasp’s do. Cuckoo Wasps are kleptoparasites – they lay their eggs in the nests of other species and their young then consume the eggs/larva/food supply of the host for their first ready meal!

The unsuspecting Potter Wasp had one last job to do, seal the cells. It duly did so by making another couple of journeys to collect more soil and tiny stones which it moistens and uses to plug the entrance of each cell.

Another reason to delay that DIY door repair, and as we said wildlife never ceases to amaze, even on your doorstep!

David Haines

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