The glittering, metallic Ruby-tailed Wasp is one of many species of solitary bee and wasp that can be spotted in a number of habitats from walls to sandy quarries, rocky outcrops to tree trunks. These insects do not live in colonies like Honey Bees; instead the female builds a nest by herself, stocks it with pollen and lays an egg within each cell she has created. However, the adults of the Ruby-tailed Wasp are a little lazier: the females actually lay their eggs in the nests of other solitary bees and wasps, especially Mason Bees. When the eggs hatch, they eat the larvae of the Mason Bees and develop - this gives the Ruby-tailed Wasp its other name of 'Cuckoo Wasp'.
How to identify
The head and thorax of the Ruby-tailed Wasp is a shiny blue-green colour; the abdomen is a deep ruby-red - if seen close up, this is perhaps one of the most beautiful British insects. However, Chrysis ignita is one of a number of very similar Ruby-tailed Wasp species which are extremely hard to tell apart; Chrysura hirsuta and Chrysis fulgida are classified as Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Where to find it
When to find it
How can people help
Solitary bees and wasps, along with many of our other, often overlooked insects, are important pollinators for all kinds of plants, including those which we rely on like fruit trees. The Wildlife Trusts recognise the importance of healthy habitats to support all kinds of species throughout the food chain, so look after many nature reserves for the benefit of wildlife. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from coppicing to craft-making, to stockwatching to surveying.