Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Insect

Two new species for me to tick off my life-list today.  Both were seen in the sandy soils on the cliff-tops of Portugal.  The first was a large, pale grasshopper which flew in and settled just long enough for me to get one shot.  It turned out to be a Red-winged Grasshopper (Oedipoda germanica).
Although quite common around much of Europe and the Near East, this was the first time I had seen and positively identified one.  Next came a much more active insect.  It twitched constantly, flicked it's antennae and seemed to be hyperactive.  as it settled on the sand it began digging furiously, kicking sand up behind it, searching for prey.  It was a Sand Digger Wasp (Ammophila sabulosa).
Hunting mainly for caterpillars and other insect larvae, they are also fairly common around Europe.  When a prey item has been located, they sting to disable it before dragging it down a hole (often one which they have dug themselves) and lay an egg on it so that when their own larvae hatch, they have 'fresh meat' on which to feed.  Despite this gruesome start to life, the adults are actually not carnivorous, preferring to feed on pollen.
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