So I make no secret about the fact that I am currently engaged in a significant amount of wasp watching! The Big Wasp Survey is on and the goal this year it so assess the impact of wasps as pollinators and so they are looking for your photographs of wasps on flowers.
Post any you find with the hashtag #waspflower on either Twitter or Instagram. For more details you can read here, go to the Big Wasp Survey website here or follow co-founder Professor Seirian Sumner or Professor Adam Hart on Twitter.
It also happens to be Insect Week, find out more about Insect Week 2021 at their website! Another wonderful initiative to get us to appreciate our insects and invertebrate life and, again, if you’ve been reading my articles recently you’ll know I’m a newly converted insect enthusiast.
I would suggest you expect a lot of my content to feature this, as I look to get out and snap wasps on flowers, as well as wasps not on flowers, and things that aren’t even wasps on flowers or otherwise.
This, though? This is just going to be a gallery of pretty pictures! Wasps shall be the star of the show but there was a lot more interesting stuff to see and if you don’t follow me on Twitter, which you should do by the way, then you are probably missing these snaps so I’m going to do my best to share them with you.
The Wasp Gallery
When people think ‘wasp’ they usually think of the yellow and black eusocial wasps, the vespids, yellowjackets, the kind of wasps that live in big social hives and build paper nests.
Wasps are actually any of the narrow-waisted species in the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita. They are closely related to ants and bees (in fact genetic evidence indicates bees evolved from wasps).
Most wasps are not the big hive-building social wasps. They are solitary, i.e. they live alone, and lay their eggs in the eggs, larvae or nests of other invertebrates like other wasps, bees, butterflies, flies etc. In fact none of the examples represented here are.
Wasps not only kill many of what we consider to be common garden pests, caterpillars that eat our cabbages and the like, but, as evidenced by the number of them on flowers, they are an important pollinator.
This is the importance of the Big Wasp Survey project so if you see some of these while you’re out and about, get a photo and tag it with your country and #WaspFlower on Twitter or Instagram.
Of course some of these ‘wasps’ may also be misidentified! Not only do a lot of flies and hoverflies look like wasps, but they have very closely related species like sawflies too.
The Beetle Gallery
Beetles are the group of insects in the order Coleoptera. One of the main identifying features of a beetle is the hardening of the outside set of wings into a hardened case known as elytra although this is either shorter, or softer in some families of beetles.
Their wide distribution, huge number of ecological roles and, in many cases, colour and beauty have made them an important group of species in human culture. The scarab beetles being considered sacred in Ancient Egypt.
In some places beetle larvae are used as foods, beetles have caused some of the largest crop failures in history (particularly weevils) but mostly beetles control pest populations by eating things like aphids and other crop pests.
Beetles, by far, comprise the largest insect order. They are EVERYWHERE with close to half a million species that make up around 25% of all known animals! What you see here is a tiny collection of beetles from one walk. Many of them are too small for me to get a good focus on with my camera.
Basically, beetles are beautiful!
The Bee Gallery
Who doesn’t love a bee? Another member of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita, just likes wasps. As mentioned, bees are actually evolved from wasps.
They evolved alongside flowering plants, a form of co-evolution, around 100 million years ago.
Most bees show some kind of society, with the most famous bees, of course, being eusocial and living in hives as large units. However around 10% of bees are solitary species such as mining bees, mason bees, carpenter bees etc.
Their value as pollinators has never really been in question. Humans have valued bees for thousands of years and apiculture – the keeping of bees to harvest their honey – is just as old. Jars of cultivated honey have been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs and it is believed the practice dates back around 9,000-10,000 years.
It is safe to say that bees are one of the most important groups of insects to human life, society and culture.
The Fly Gallery
Behind wasps, flies probably have the worst reputation. Considered dirty, a nuisance and a pest flies are actually massively diverse, numerous and ecologically important.
They are members of the order Diptera, literally ‘two-wings’. From the slim and slender mosquitos and crane flies, through house flies and dung flies, all the way up to Gauromydas heros, the largest known fly that can be up to 7cm in length with a 10cm wingspan! Flies are remarkable.
Many of us dislike them buzzing around our faces and creating maggots in our bins but this role, as decomposers, helps us break down our waste and recycle the nutrients into the soil. Without these valuable services, funnily enough, conditions would be perfect for more disease! So whilst we associate flies with being ‘dirty’ – their roles in dealing with our waste help make our world cleaner!
What’s more a specific fly, Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, has been so important in research of genetics, evolution and heritability that they’ve more than paid for any problems they may cause many times over! Thanks to its relatively short generational time, small and quickly processed genome and the fact that many of its genes have analogues in higher organisms, like yeast, mice and rats it has become one of our model organisms for genetics research.
Remember that next time you want to have a go at flies.
Miscellaneous Gallery (Spiders, Moths, Caterpillars, Snails etc.)
There are so many invertebrates and types of invertebrate that not all of them can have a specific section!
The invertebrate world really is a wonderfully diverse space and the fact that it is in your hedgerows and at the bottom of your gardens is all the more reason to get out there, explore it, learn about it and find some amazing stuff.
These are plants and members of the family Orchidaceae. I am blessed where I live that I get to see many of these orchids flowering where they are rarer in other parts of the country.
Diversity of plants and flowers like this equals a diversity of insect and invertebrate life.