Red Banded Sand Wasp - Ammophila sabulosa

    Description

    Ammophila sabulosa is a large (15 to 25 mm long) and striking solitary wasp with a very long narrow "waist" of two segments. The species can be told from A. pubescens (which is smaller, 12 to 20ÿmm long) as the waist widens out very gradually into the "tail" of the abdomen. The pattern of the forewings also differs: the third sub marginal cell makes broad contact with the cell to its front and the rear end of the abdomen has a faint metallic blue sheen. The whole body is black except for the front half of the "tail", which is orange.

    Identification difficulty
    Habitat

    On heathland and other sandy places ? often near to the coast.

    When to see it

    June to September.

    Life History

    Normally, a female digs a short burrow, ending in a horizontal cell, in bare or sparsely vegetated sand. Later, she temporarily closes the nest entrance using sand and tiny stones, then hunts for lepidopteran caterpillars in vegetation. About half of all cells are provisioned with just one large caterpillar, which is carried back on foot as it is sometimes more than ten times as heavy as the wasp. Other cells are provisioned with two to five smaller caterpillars. An egg is laid on the first caterpillar provisioned and rarely hatches before permanent closure of the nest burrow. After the last caterpillar has been interred the wasp permanently closes the burrow with a much deeper plug of sand, and camouflages the entrance with debris so that it is invisible to the human eye. All nests are unicellular. The whole nesting cycle, from searching for a digging site to closing the nest permanently after provisioning, takes an average of eight to ten hours of activity. Marked females each dug and provisioned up to ten nests during a summer.

    UK Status

    Found throughout much of Britain, though more often seen in southern England.

    VC55 Status

    It seems to be infrequent in Leicestershire and Rutland with few modern records.

    Leicestershire & Rutland Map

    MAP KEY:

    Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
    Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

    UK Map