The Hymemnoptera superfamily contains many more species than just ants, bees and wasps. Ichneumon wasps, the most numerous of all, are dealt with on a separate page but here are just a handful of sawflies, of which there are more than 500 species in Britain. As with Ichneumons, identification is rarely easy.
Many of them are striking in appearance, often as wasp mimics though lacking the 'wasp waist'. Others, including the Apple sawfly (Hoplocampa testudinea), Turnip Sawfly (Athalia rosae) and Gooseberry Sawfly (Nematus ribesii), are regarded as pests because of the damage the larvae do to the leaves of fruit trees and bushes plus garden plants.
Tenthredo maculata (16mm) and Tenthredo celtica (12mm) are superb wasp mimics from the Tenthredinidae family, the largest family numerically by some margin. The adults are common between May and late summer and frequently nectar on Umbellifers. Umbellifers in fact attract many types of sawfly and males often patrol the flowers in search of mates, as with the group of two males and one female of a Tenthredinidae species shown above. The dashing green colouration makes Rhogogaster punctulata (11mm) one of the brightest of the Tenthredinidae. The adults are predatory.
Bracken feeders are not that common among our invertebrates but three sawflies shown here are in the list. Strongylogaster multifasciata (15mm) is another fine wasp mimic and the same goes for Strongylogaster xanthocera (15mm). Like many species, they tend to bask. The other bracken feeder, Aneugmenus coronatus, is smaller at 7mm.
Tenthredo mesomelas (11mm) has plenty of green marking. Larvae feed nocturnally on buttercup among various plants. Tenthredo livida (12mm) is seen quite frequently between May and August. The markings involve a white lower face and white on the antennae plus red on the abdomen. Larvae feed on such plants as hazel, willow and honeysuckle.
Two of the least popular species must be the Turnip Sawfly (Athalia rosae, 9mm), which attacks cruciferous plants as a larva, and the Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana, 9mm) whose larvae can cause considerable damage to rose bushes, as the image above shows. They both stand out with their orange colouring and both spend a lot of time on flower heads as adults.
The Bramble Sawfly (Arge cyanocrocea, 8mm) is from the same genus and is distinguished by the dark marks on the wings. The Berberis Sawfly (Arge berberidis, 8mm) is less striking than the other Arge species shown here but does have an attractive blue tinge. This one is fairly new to Britain and besides Berberis it targets Mahonia, leading to no great joy at its presence in gardens.
Another rose feeder is Allantus truncatus (12mm), a widespread species with adults occurring from May to August. The Alder Sawfly (Eriocampa ovata, 9mm) is distinctive with its red-orange thoracic markings and the Hazel Sawfly (Croesus septentrionalis, 11mm) bears a striking resemblance to some spider-hunting wasps.
Willow Wood Wasp Xiphydria prolongata (14mm) is also from the Hymenoptera superfamily. This is part of a family led by the massive Greater Horntail (Urocerus gigas), which can measure over 40mm. All Wood Wasps use their sizeable ovipositors to lay eggs in wood and the larvae feed within the tree. The illustrated species is known to use Poplars, Willows and Elms.
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.