September 23, 2017

Figwort Sawfly (Tenthredo scrophulariae)

This is a very exciting post for me. I took these pictures 5 years ago with my first digital SLR and a newly acquired macro lens (a Tamron 90mm – which I still use) and was really pleased with the results. Looking at the yellow and black colour scheme and general shape and layout of this insect, I assumed it was a wasp, tagged the pictures as ‘parasitic wasp’ and moved on.

Writing my ‘one a day’ species posts has made me examine my archive and really learn about what I’ve captured in my pictures.  Although this species superficially resembles a wasp and is in the same taxonomic order, the Hymenoptera, which includes wasps, bees and ants, its actually from the sub order Symphyta – the Sawflys.

This is exciting because it’s opened up a whole new set of creatures for me. I knew that sawfly larvae closely resembled butterfly or moth caterpillars but for some reason the adults were a total blank, a complete mystery to me. Well lets face it there’s a lot of invertebrates out there and obviously you could never recognize every individual species, but to have missed a whole sub order of the magnitude of wasps or bees was a bit of a shock!

My favourite aspect of this series of photos is the clarity of the ocelli. These so called ‘simple eyes’ are the three round structures between the compound eyes. Lots of flying insects have these and as well as complimenting the compound eyes which are comparatively slow and less sensitive to light, they’re thought to play some part in flight stability and high speed orientation.

Thanks to iSpot, the Open University’s identification website, I’ve now been able to not only name something which has been on my office wall for half a decade, but also opened up an exciting new insect vista. With this in mind, a quick trip to Amazon to see what sort of guides to sawflys were available, and it turns out that the most likely candidate seems to feature T. scrophulariae on the cover:

Small world eh? Literally :)

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