Wasp new to UK found on Worcestershire nature reserve

Wasp new to UK found on Worcestershire nature reserve

Diphyus latebricola by Oliver Wadsworth

A wasp that has never been recorded in Britain before has been found on a new nature reserve in Worcestershire’s Wyre Forest.

The parasitoid wasp Diphyus latebricola was discovered by a member of the Wyre Forest Study Group at the Helen Mackaness nature reserve. The group had been contracted to survey the site by its owner Worcestershire Wildlife Trust as a first step in managing the new reserve.

Andy Harris, conservation officer responsible for the nature reserve, explained “This is a fantastic find on one of our newest nature reserves. It’s only a small grassland that includes wet flushes and dry meadow with a stand of mature oak trees and an old orchard so to have found something this rare is a really pleasant surprise.”

One of 5000 species of parasitoid wasps

The wasp is one of a diverse group of over 5000 species of parasitoid wasps that can be found in the British Isles. It is a member of the Ichneumonidae, which itself is a group of 32 subfamilies that contain around 2500 species of parasitoid wasps.

The discovery of the new wasp means that the subfamily Ichneumoninae now has 384 species in the British Isles.

Parasitoid wasps lay their eggs into their hosts where it develops, often eating the host alive from the inside.

Diphyus latebricola lays its eggs into the larvae of moths and butterflies. Although a specific host has not been confirmed, by looking at hosts of other Diphyus species of wasp, it can be inferred that Diphyus latebricola lays its eggs into a range of larvae rather than one species in particular.

The wasp doesn’t have a common name and very little is known about it but it is hoped that future observations there can tell us more about it.

It is known from Europe but has never been recorded in the UK before. As its appearance is in the West Midlands, it is likely that it has been present in the UK for some time but not been discovered.

It’s always exciting to find a new species of parasitoid wasp new to Britain.
Jaswinder Boparai

Jaswinder Boparai, who has previously studied and worked extensively with parasitoid wasps, identified the species. He commented “Their parasitic nature sounds really grizzly but this fascinating lifestyle contributes to the balance in nature, with parasitoids often being used for the biological control of pest species.

“We know surprisingly little about the biology of these species and we really need to preserve the habitats that they live in, in the hope of learning more about how they can further contribute to the world we live in.”

Wyre Forest nature reserve

Helen Mackaness Reserve by Harry Green

Helen Mackaness Reserve © Harry Green

The five acre nature reserve was purchased in autumn of 2017 with help from the Helen Mackaness Trust and The Worcester and Malvern RSPB Group. The grassland has patches of knapweed, betony and pignut whilst damper areas have meadowsweet, ragged robin and cuckoo flower.

The survey conducted by the Wyre Forest Study Group recorded more than 620 species on the reserve including several new records for the Wyre Forest and Worcestershire as well as Diphyus latebricola.

The reserve sits within the wider Wyre Forest National Nature Reserve (NNR) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The nature reserve is closed to the public but is viewable from a number of footpaths in the area.