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.