With a colouring as gorgeous as this it would be easy to think that these creatures would be extremely obvious . And indeed they are, when you know they are there. But ruby-tailed wasps, Chrysis ignita , are small, about 12 mm long, and slender. They love bright warm sunshine and on sunny days you can see them on sunny walls and fence posts, engaged in the very important activity of looking for the nests of hosts in which to deposit their eggs. For these jewel wasps are parasitoids and this species prey particularly on Red Mason Bees, Osmia rufa.
My garden has been a-humming with the delightful little Mason bees for several weeks, occupying the home-made bee hotel and the extension we put in for them. Unsurprisingly, the jewel wasps are presenting themselves as guests at the hotel too, taking advantage of all services.
Here you can see the host and the predator. The majority of the bamboo canes and drilled holes are already sealed. The tamping horns on the bees’ heads leaves little marks in the mud that you can make out here. Watching the bees working is fascinating and they tolerate human prescence readily. They are stingless and thus harmless to people and domestic animals and have they done a great job pollinating my fruit trees.