12mm Black-banded Spider-Hunting Wasp found hunting on sandy soil at Surrey Heathland, March 2022

Black-banded Spider-Hunting Wasp     (Anoplius viaticus)
Growing to around 14mm in length Anoplius viaticus is one of the larger species from the Pompilidae family of Spider-Hunting Wasps. There are around 44 different species of Spider-Hunting Wasp in the UK, with two of these found only on the Channel Islands.

Adult Black-banded Spider-Hunting Wasps feed on nectar, sourced from flowers, but they prey upon spiders as hosts for their parasitic larvae. This species is commonly associated with heathland sites and dunes, where sandy soil is present. Adult females overwinter and emerge around March. Anoplius viaticus are one of the first Pompilidae species to be seen in the new year. The only other Pompilidae species that hibernate as adults and emerge in March are Priocnemis coriacea, Priocnemis perturbator and Priocnemis susterai. Along with their large size and striking colouration this makes Anoplius viaticus one of the easiest Pompilidae species to identify at this time of year.

On sunny days these long-legged wasps can be seen skipping over bare, sandy soil, with short bursts of flight, as they hunt for small spiders, primarily Wolf Spiders from the Lycosidae family. Once a spider has been caught it's quickly injected with venom and completely paralysed. Once paralysed the spider is usually secured to low vegetation whilst the Spider-Hunting Wasp begins digging her burrow. During this time other predators can sometimes try and steal the prey, and it's not unusual for fights between Spider-Hunting Wasps to ensue over captured prey. Once the female has dug her burrow, and safely concealed the paralysed spider at the bottom of her burrow, she will lay her eggs in the spider and seal the burrow. She will often keep guard over the burrow to ensure her catch isn't dug up and stolen by another predator. Once the eggs hatch the larvae of the wasp will feed on the spider. 

Overwintered adult females that emerge in March will die off around June or July, but they are immediately replaced by the next generation that can be seen until they hibernate around September in deep burrows. Adult males are usually only seen from June until September before dying off. Adult males do not overwinter.

Spider-Hunting Wasps have a very powerful sting capable of causing instant, and long-lasting, paralysis of other invertebrates. This sting is also reported to be extremely painful to humans as well. American scientist, Justin O Schmidt, produced his own pain scale for insect stings, and the sting of larger species of Spider-Hunting Wasps were rated at the highest level of 4/4 for pain on his scale. The smaller species were still rated very high at 3/4, when compared to the average sting of a bee, which was rated at 2/4.

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13mm Green Tiger Beetle hunting on sandy soil on the banks of a dried woodland pond in Surrey, 15th April 2022

Green Tiger Beetle     (Cicindela campestris)
These sun-loving, predatory beetles are usually found on heathland and moorland across all of the UK. They are the most widespread and common Tiger Beetle species in the Britain. Green Tiger Beetles are most often seen when they're hunting on bare, open, sandy or chalky, soil for any invertebrates they encounter. Adult specimens are commonly found from May to July, but sometimes as early as April, or as late as October. This is a medium sized beetle typically growing from 12-15mm. They vary in shade from a dark and dull green to a light and bright green, but all have a strongly metallic and iridescent finish. The wing cases have cream spots.

Green Tiger Beetles are competent fliers and will also take prey on the wing, as well as on the ground. They usually fly in short bursts, often make a buzzing sound as they fly. It is their speed and agility across land, their large eyes, and large mandibles that makes them such formidable hunters though, running at speeds of up to 60cm per second. The larvae dig burrows up to 30cm deep and take 2 years to develop before pupating at the bottom of their burrow.

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13mm Green Tiger Beetle

13mm Green Tiger Beetle hunting on sandy soil on the banks of a dried woodland pond in Surrey, 15th April 2022

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