Ruby-tailed Wasp

Ruby-tailed Wasp ┬ęSkol-louarn

Ruby-tailed wasp

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Scientific name: Chrysis ignita agg.
If seen up close, the glittering Ruby-tailed wasp is, perhaps, one of the UK's most beautiful insects. A solitary wasp, it can be found in sandy and rocky habitats like quarries, outcrops and walls.

Top facts

Stats

Length: 1.1cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

April to September

About

The glittering, metallic Ruby-tailed wasp is one of many species of solitary bee and wasp that can be spotted in a number of habitats from walls to sandy quarries, rocky outcrops to tree trunks. Solitary bees and wasps do not live in colonies like Honey Bees; instead, the female builds a nest by herself, stocks it with pollen, and lays an egg within each cell she has created. However, the adults of the Ruby-tailed wasp are a little lazier: the females actually lay their eggs in the nests of other solitary bees and wasps, especially Mason Bees. When the eggs hatch, they eat the larvae of the Mason Bees and develop - this gives the Ruby-tailed wasp its other name of 'Cuckoo Wasp'.

What to look for

The head and thorax of the Ruby-tailed wasp is a shiny blue-green colour, and the abdomen is a deep ruby-red. However, Chrysis ignita is one of a number of very similar Ruby-tailed Wasp species which are extremely hard to tell apart.

Where to find

Widespread.

Did you know?

Parasitising other bees' nests is a dangerous business, but the Ruby-tailed wasp has a number of defences: its abdomen is concave, allowing it to curl up into a ball; it has a hard body cuticle that protects it from the stings of the host species; and it does have a sting, although this is not venomous.