LOWLAND HEATHLAND - SPIDER-HUNTING WASPS (Pompilinae: Anoplius nigerrimus)

This Anoplius nigerrimus had a tough task hauling her prey to the nest site The 35cm route - white equals multiple failures, black equals success Once at the burrow, some subtle repositioning may be required
Farewell spider as the wasp pulls the prey into its tomb The accepted method: filling in a burrow with earth The novel method: filling in a burrow with a rabbit dropping

Anoplius nigerrimus is one of the commonest Pompilids and among the easiest to observe because the species is fairly large (11mm), found in most habitats and is very much "up and at 'em" in style.

Their efficiency is not so impeccable, since they do not always have a burrow prepared into which to put the spider, and can lose track of the prey's location, or allow other invertebrates such as ants to take it away, while getting a nest siteAnt removing a paralysed spider carelessly left by a wasp ready.

Nest locations include snail shells, under stones, plant stems and, here, in a root-plate. The prey was Trochosa terricola, a substantial spider and not easy to pull up a steep slope. The wasp had at least eight attempts, every time losing hold of the spider and seeing it fall back to the bottom, until it changed the route and managed to reach home base.

There was novelty in another Anoplius nigerrimus filling in its burrow in the same location. Predictably, the usual substance used is earth, which in a sandy location presents some difficulties. One of the wasps duly employed soil but also a rabbit dropping, indicating apparent adaptability according to available resources.

Images © Jeremy Early. All rights reserved.

In 2013 I published My Side of the Fence - the Natural History of a Surrey Garden. Details may be found, and orders placed, via this hyperlink My Side of the Fence. In November 2015 Surrey Wildlife Trust published the atlas Soldierflies, their allies and Conopidae of Surrey, jointly written by David Baldock and me. Details are on this web page: Atlas.