As some of you will no doubt be aware, earlier this year our bug hotel that was lovingly built by our Friends of Parc Slip volunteers was sadly burnt down by vandals. In the last couple of weeks it has been reconstructed, again by volunteers, and is looking absolutely fantastic as you can see in the picture.
It is full of bricks, logs, straw and other materials that a range of invertebrates will hopefully use as nesting materials. Last week we spotted an impressive early visitor to the bug hotel; a Horntail or Greater Wood Wasp (Urocerus gigas)! This enormous insect is not actually a wasp but a sawfly and is one of the largest members of the Hymenoptera (the order containing bees, wasps and ants) in the UK. Sawflies are the most primitive insects in that group and can be distinguished from the other members by the lack of a narrowed ‘waist’ that bees, wasps and ants exhibit as adults. There are approximately 500 species of sawflies in the UK and they are named because of the saw-like ovipositor (egg-laying device) that the females use to insert their eggs into plant tissue. None of the sawflies can sting, despite the rather fearsome looking ovipositor, so are no threat to us.
The Horntail (pictured below) can have a body length of 4cm with at least 1cm more of ovipositor in the female’s case so are striking insects. They lay their eggs in dead pine trees, of which we have plenty at Parc Slip, and this individual was probably taking advantage of the pine logs that had been placed in the bug hotel. The larvae will then feed on the decaying timber for 2-5 years before eventually emerging from circular exit holes to carry on the lifecycle.
Hopefully, this amazing creature will be the first of many species to take advantage of the habitats in and around the bug hotel. If you visit Parc Slip, take a look to see what you can see using it. Alternatively, think about making or buying a small bug hotel, which are now readily available, to provide some extra habitat in your garden and see what you can attract; insects are struggling with loss of feeding and nesting habitat so every little bit helps.
Thank you to all who donated time and materials so that we could rebuild the bug hotel!