I spend the whole day at Merrions Wood today, hunting for minibeasts with Year 4 from Delves Junior School. Apart from generally being a pinch-yourself (i-cant-believe-this-is-my-job) day, two pretty cool species turned up. The first (Above and Below) is Cychrus caraboides – or for we small folk: The Snail Hunter! See the narrow thorax and that long, stretched-looking head? It has evolved that way in order to allow the species to reach its head far into snail shells to eat the flesh. Amazing! This was a first for me, and the NBN Gateway lists no records for the Black Country, so could be a first for Walsall too!
Some of you may remember the wasp awareness week that I did last year, highlighting a different social wasp species each day. I’m actually working on a new project – the Passive Monitoring of Social Wasps at Merrions Wood and Rough Wood (Part of the Walsall Aculeates Survey Project). I’ve recorded the Median Wasp at both sites, as well as Common Wasp, so I was very keen to find out what other social wasp species were there.
Whilst waiting in the car park for the Delves Junior School posse to arrive, I caught this little beauty – a German Wasp. She has all the characteristics that show you what species she is: 1) the ‘malar space’ – the gap between her eye and her jaw is narrow – making her a ‘Vespula’ species 2) she has blonde hairs on the top of her abdomen – which narrows it down to ‘common’ and ‘german’ – and the stripe on her shoulder broadens in the midde – German Wasp! – she might as well be eating a bratwurst and listening to Bach!
If you fancy having a go at identifying wasps, you can give this ID key a try – you will need a hand lens to see some of the features, and of course a bug pot (small glass jars work fine) too.