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- The spider hunter - 21st June, 2020
Sometimes, the name of a species isn’t really very informative. Oonops pulcher, for example (a spider), means ‘beautiful egg-eyes’. Not much information, although ideal for tormenting it with if ever you actually recognise one. Not so with Philanthus triangulum, the European beewolf. Ok, so in English the binomial name means something like ‘Triangular flower-lover‘. Let’s just leave that one aside. Because its English name must have been given by an aircraft designer, so apt is it. Philanthus is a spectacularly large and fearsome-looking hunting wasp, although harmless to humans. What’s more, unlike its fellows it doesn’t hunt those soppy caterpillars, nor the errant but harmless flies. No, this one goes for the big prize: honeybees. Philanthus can overpower, paralyse and carry a honeybee home, where it will lay an egg on the torpid bee that serves as living food for the Philanthus larva. Each female beewolf lives alone, making a tunnel-like nest in which her gruesome babies and their hosts live. However, beewolves are sociable, if not social, creatures, and tend to crowd together. Loving the sun, they’ve been having a hard time of it this year. But the Isle of Wight is nothing if not sunny, and one such colony of tunnels was found by The Ranger and Cat recently right in the middle of Ryde esplanade, close to the beach. Enjoy this video of one of these industrious little mothers preparing the way for her next cargo of paralysed bees:
The thronging footpath to the golden sands passed right nearby, and the busy wasps risked destruction with each passing foot – or more likely, when someone saw these terrible monsters and rang the council to have them sprayed to death. As a harmless (to humans) Red Data Book species this would probably not be a good idea. Luckily, this particular beach is under The Ranger’s control, so if these little living attack-helicopters survive the deluge this summer they won’t have to worry about humans having a go at them, at least.