Hymenoptera 2000

By Geoff Trevis

This year has not been spectacularly successful in terms of adding to our knowledge of the county fauna but, with the help of Harry Green, some interesting records have been accumulated. I also have a number of specimens awaiting definite identification. Among these are a leaf cutter bee from Harry and a Nomada bee I collected at Briar Hill Coppice. The Nomada is particularly frustrating as, however many times I try, it always keys out to N.sexfasciata, a species which, according to George Else, is rare and confined to a few sites on the Devon coast!

However, apart from the common social wasps, bumble bees and ants, a few of the more interesting species have been:

Ancistrocerus nigricornis (Curtis)A potter/mason wasp (Eumenidae)

Location:Collected by Harry Green at Little Comberton
Flight period:April - September
Distribution and status:Archer(1) records the species as wide spread though having shown a recent significant decline.
Additional notes:Nests are usually located in tubes, usually in dead stems of Bramble or Elder. The adults feed on nectar from the flowers of Bramble, Golden Rod, Hogweed, Nightshades and Thistles. The larval cells are provisioned with a wide range of lepidopterous larvae, particularly tortricidae.
Identification:Archer (1) ; Yeo and Corbet (2)

Leptothorax nylanderi (Foerster)An ant (Formicidae)

Location:Collected by Geoff Trevis at Upton Warren Educational Reserve
Flight period:Alate forms are on the wing during August
Distribution and status:Bolton et al.(3) note the species as local in the south from Devon to Shropshire.
Additional notes:I have found little about the biology of the species except that it forms small colonies, probably with a single queen, under bark or in tree stumps.
Identification:Bolton and Collingwood(3) ; Skinner and Allen(4)

Evagetes crassicornis (Shuckard)A spider hunting wasp (Pompilidae)

Location:Collected by Geoff Trevis at Droitwich Community Woodland
Flight period:May to September
Distribution and status:Day(5) records the species as frequent though rarely common throughout the British Isles. It is widely distributed, even having been taken on a window in the Entomology Department of the British Museum (Natural History).
Additional notes:It is most often encountered in the sandy habitats where potential host species are plentiful. In Britain, it is cleptoparasitic on the Pompilid wasps Episyron rufipes and Arachnospila trivialis (Betts(6)).
Identification:Day (5)

Mellinus arvensis (Linn)A digger wasp (Sphecidae)

Location:Collected by Geoff Trevis at Upton Warren Educational Reserve
Flight period:May to September
Distribution and status:Gauld and Bolton(7) describe the species of Sphecidae as being widely distributed though none being common and many rare. However, Edwards(8) says that Mellinus arvensis is, indeed, common and not regarded as threatened.
Additional notes:Step(9) uses the English name "Field Digger Wasp" and describes the burrow as being a foot to twenty inches deep, in bare patches of sandy soil, with cells leading off at intervals from the main tunnel. Each cell is stocked with from 4 - 9 flies (diptera) before an egg is laid. Edwards(8) further notes that nests are frequently established in shady locations, an unusual habit for an aculeate. This accords with my own observation that all the specimens at Upton Warren were seen just within the entrances to rabbit borrows.
Identification:Yeo and Corbett (2)

Nomada marshamella (Kirby)A parasitic bee (Anthophoridae)

Location:Collected by Harry Green at Little Comberton
Flight period:April to September
Distribution and status:I have found little information about this species except for a note in Step(9) that it is very common in the spring. This may have been true in 1932 but may not be the case now.
Additional notes:This species is double brooded and is cleptoparasitic on various species of Andrena including A. scotica, A. trimmerana and A. bucephala. Having found the parasite it would be interesting to see if we can find the host.
Identification:Else (10)

Megachile willughbiella (Kirby)A leaf cutter bee (Megachilidae)

Location:Collected by Harry Green at Little Comberton
Flight period:June to August
Distribution and status:Else(11) gives the details as a common and wisely distributed bee, the range extending from north east Scotland to the Channel Islands. Step(9) notes that it mines in old willows and the females can be seen around the trees from June to August.
Additional notes:Else (11) states that the nests are built in various suitable niches, including burrows in dead wood and the soil; there is even a record of a bee nesting in a length of garden hose in a greenhouse. Leaf sections from Beech (Fagus sylvatica), rose and Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) have been reported in the building of cells. Whilst having little to say about the British species, Gauld and Bolton(7) record that "The Megachile includes some very large bees; Chalicodoma pluto from Indonesia is the world’s largest bee, and may attain a body length of 39mm!
Identification:Else (11)


  1. ARCHER M.E. The British Potter and Mason Wasps. A Handbook. Published - Vespid Studies, 2000.
  2. YEO P.F. & Corbet S.A. Naturalists Handbook No.3 - Solitary Wasps. Published - Cambridge University Press 1983.
  3. BOLTON B. & COLLINGWOOD C.A. Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects Vol. VI Part 3 ( c ) - Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Published - The Royal Entomological Society, 1975.
  4. SKINNER G.J. & ALLEN G.W. Naturalists Handbooks, No. 24, Ants. Published - The Richmond Publishing Co. Ltd., 1996.
  5. DAY M.C.. Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects Vol. 6, part 4; Spider Wasps, Hymenoptera, Pompilidae. Published - The Royal Entomological Society 1988.
  6. BETTS C. A Supplement to the Second Edition of the Hymenopterists Handbook. Published - The Amateur Entomologists Society 1986.
  7. GAULD I. AND BOLTON B.(eds.) The Hymenoptera. Published - Oxford University Press 1996. (First Impression; British Museum - Natural History, 1988).
  8. EDWARDS R. (ed.) Provisional Atlas of the Aculeate Hymenoptera of Britain and Ireland, Part 2. Published - Biological Records Centre, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, 1998.
  9. STEP E. Bees, Wasps, Ants and Allied Insects of the British Isles (The Wayside and Woodland Series). Published - Frederick Warne and Co. Ltd., 1932.
  10. ELSE G.R. Draft Nomada Key, April 2000. Final draft in preparation.
  11. ELSE G.R. Leaf Cutter Bees. British Wildlife 10(6), 1999, 388 - 393.

As a final note may I ask anybody who finds hymenoptera specimens, which they do not want, in their net to please send them to me. Even specimens which have dried out will be welcome as they can easily be relaxed. Also, the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society is making a special effort to map the distribution of ants so again any records or specimens would be welcome.

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