Tag Archives: Ancistrocerus

The Summer Solstice

Because our calendars don’t exactly match up with the reality that the earth takes 365.24 days to orbit the sun, the exact point of the Summer Solstice varies in date. Most people assume June 21 is the Solstice, but in reality it can even fall on June 23. This year it fell on the 21, the exact moment being 10.51 am. But don’t confuse the Solstice with Midsummer’s Day – that arrives with nightfall on June 23 and continues until nightfall on June 24. That’s another day’s explanation. Today was a magnificent Summer Solstice in Wicklow. It was warm and sunny, and a Saturday too. Perfect. And I found so much wildlife today I could barely keep up. In fact, most of it found me. Just to start the ball rolling, here’s a Potter Wasp at work on a mud-gallery. If this pot was for sale I don’t think I’d buy it:

Ancistrocerus, but not necessarily the same species as previously seen.
Ancistrocerus, but not necessarily the same species as previously seen.

This time a different type of wasp decided it was going to pay me a visit. I heard what I thought was water falling and found a wasp chewing through a solid pine window frame like an electric drill. Look at the saw-dust:

The rear-end of a Digger Wasp as it burrows through a window frame, in only minutes!
The rear-end of a Digger Wasp as it burrows through a window frame, in only minutes!

There were two of them, and this other one seems to be the male. Based on the largish size and pattern of markings I’m pretty sure this species is Ectemnius clavifrons, which has not been recorded in Ireland since before the turn of the century:

A very beautiful wasp with jaws as powerful as a Black-and-Decker buzz-saw.
A very beautiful wasp with jaws as powerful as a Black-and-Decker buzz-saw.

After removing the wasps, and shutting the window, and plugging the hole in the window frame, it was time for a stroll, and a big red-and-black butterfly flew past my face almost as soon as I started walking. It landed right in front of me – not a butterfly at all, but a highly toxic Cinnabar Moth – Tyria jacobaea. I got my best ever shot of this remarkable day-flying species.

The beautiful Cinnabar Moth revealing its scarlet hind wings. I actually know a Brazilian naturalist who was so impressed by this European moth that she got a tattoo of it on her arm. It's nice to think we have a species in Wicklow which Brazilians consider exotic.
The beautiful Cinnabar Moth revealing its scarlet hind wings. I actually know a Brazilian naturalist who was so impressed by this European moth that she got a tattoo of it on her arm. It’s nice to think we have a species in Wicklow which Brazilians consider exotic.

And if all that wasn’t enough, my brother spotted what he thought was a Buzzard circling over the garden, but it was something much bigger and less common around these lowlands – a Red Kite. Always glad of a good photo, I grabbed my camera and ran like hell to got there before it flew off:

Red Kites have much longer and proportionally narrower wings than Buzzards, but the real giveaway is the longer tail which is forked. Both species like to circle around areas.
Red Kites have much longer and proportionally narrower wings than Buzzards, but the real giveaway is the longer tail which is forked. Both species like to circle around areas slowly.

You can say Rhinoceros, but can you say Ancistrocerus?

For a few years I have seen some lovely small wasps daubing mud on the walls around my garden and house, and even sticking a concrete-like substance to the panes of glass on a glasshouse. However, getting near enough to the wasps to even get a good idea of their appearance has been next to impossible. Finally I have managed to get a good shot of what appears to be the same wasp. Voila!

Ancistrocerus, aka a Potter Wasp. This one seemed remarkably subdued and I wondered if it had been bitten or stung by another creature, such as an ambushing crab spider.
Ancistrocerus, aka a Potter Wasp. This one seemed remarkably subdued and I wondered if it had been bitten or stung by another creature, such as an ambushing crab spider.

Thanks to British entomologist Nigel Jones I can say with certainty that this is one of the Potter Wasps, which get their name because some of them make tiny clay pots in which they lay their eggs. The really exciting thing is that according to the records of the National Biodiversity Database, this is only the second recorded Ancistrocerus in Ireland. Rhinoceros and Ancistrocerus are actually very closely related names – rhinoceros means ‘nose-horn’ (rhino = nose, ceros = horn) whereas ancistrocerus¬† means ‘hooked horn’ (ancistro = hooked, cerus = horn) and refers to the antennae of the wasp, which you can clearly see in the photo. Another beautiful creature in the Garden of Ireland, and probably a lot more common than the records suggest.