insects

Looks innocent enough!

However, if of a squeamish disposition — do not continue.

Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris

The clue is in the name — it’s not got black and yellow stripes — it’s a ferocious predator and so is it’s baby which lives in a burrow with only its face showing which will grab any passing creature, like an ant, and munch it up with its formidable jaws.

These lavae become fat and juicy on their diet of hapless insects but if they are unlucky enough to encounter their own specific ichneumon wasp, Methoca ichneumoides, they in turn meet a horrible end. Life is like that! Here is one who has met a sticky end, lying on its back showing its terrible jaws.

Methoca ichneumenoides on lava of Cicindela , photographed by Albert Krebs (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Methoca ichneumenoides came along and allowed the beetle lava to pull it into its burrow but then stung it, which paralysed the beetle lava, Methoca then laid a single egg in the body and filled up the top of the burrow with sand. Here you see that the the egg has hatched and the live lava of the wasp has eaten its way out and is chomping on the beetle lava. I suspect the pair were both dug up by a nosey human like me and photographed without permission!

We did not find an example of Methoca on Dunwich Heath last week but we did see another interesting wasp there last time we visited, the red banded sand wasp. It has similar habits.

Red banded sand wasp Ammophila sabulosa

Click anyway — I think it will work — otherwise search red banded sand wasp on Wikipedia!

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nature

Hippo’s guide to the beach

Like the hippopotamus our usual habitat is mud — glorious mud. Only occasionally do we venture from the soggy highlands of these British Isles to the sand around the edges and then what we see is unfamiliar.

Like this red banded sand wasp (Ammophila sabulosa).

This is a solitary (actually quite antisocial) wasp that stings its prey, often caterpillars, into submission then drags them to a burrow, sealing them in together with an egg of its own that will hatch into a hungry lava. If she finds another burrow that already contains prey and another female sand wasp’s egg she will eat the egg and replace it with one of her own — not very sisterly. They lose a third of their offspring this way which perhaps explains the frenetic way they were dashing about the sand on the day we visited Dunwich Heath.

We met this woolly bear on the sand dunes at Ynes Las, it is the caterpillar of the garden tiger moth (Arctia caja)– not rare in our childhood and not limited to sandy habitats, it becomes a colourful moth that evades our attention by flying at night. It is increasingly uncommon despite its disgusting taste which it enhances with a horrible sauce exuded from the back of its neck when attacked by a bird — its bright colours advertise this fact.

The garden tiger moth — Arctia caja by Vlad Prokiov (CC BY- NC 2.0)

Not everything on the sand is unfamiliar, not even to this mallard!

Rats on the beach at Titchfield Haven
Compass jelly fish stranded on the beach at Ynes Las — the tentacles give a nasty sting.

Strangest of all — what left this foot print

Seen on the bank of Kinewell lake.
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