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Insects and Spiders

The Insects and Spiders have been grouped together at this stage to make the quintessential ‘creepy crawler’ Woolston Eyes list. As this section develops we may split some of the taxa into separate sections to reduce the size and complexity of this potentially large group.

First, the technical bit, the definition of an Insect – beyond creepy crawlers;


Insects are, a class of invertebrates within the ‘Arthropod Phylum that possess a chitinous exoskeleton, a body consisting of head, thorax and abdomen, three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and a pair of antennae.


Spiders are also invertebrates within the ‘Arthropod Phylum’ but differ significantly from the definition of insects, most notably by the facts that spiders have four pairs of legs (1) not three and the body is separated in only two parts, not three, the cephalothorax (2) and an abdomen (3). The head and thorax of the spider form the cephalothorax which is linked to the abdomen.

The various families are too numerous to make easy referencing unless one is an invertebrate specialist so for practicality we will list both insect and spider species, recorded on the Reserve, in alphabetical order although in separate lists, by their species name.

The survey reports identified in the species listings can be viewed independently via the links which follow;

Click here to view the 2005 Survey of Aculeates (Bees, Wasps & Ants)on the Reserve

The Insect Group - Aculeates

Aculeates are part of the vast insect order, the Hymenoptera. The defining feature of all aculeates is that the egg-laying ovipositor is modified to form a sting. The majority of species hide their larva and their food provisions in safe retreats.

In Britain there are around 590 species of aculeates. These include ants, bees and wasps.

BEES - most bees collect pollen which their larvae feed upon and can be split into the general groups;

Mining Bees - solitary nesters in the ground

Solitary Bees - solitary nesters in aerial locations, borings in timber, hollow dead plant stems etc.

Social Bees - social nesters, such as honey bees and bumblebees.

Cuckoo Bees - cuckoo species on solitary and social species. These do not collect pollen. They lay their eggs in the nests of solitary or social bees who then tend the young as their own.

WASPS - most wasps capture, sting and paralyse prey that are fed to their larvae. Most species usually specialise on a narrow range of insect prey that they hunt and can be split into the following groups;

Solitary Wasps - solitary ground nesting species

Solitary Wasps - solitary aerial nesting species

Social Wasps - social nesters including hornets and the well-known yellow and black social wasps.

Spider Hunting Wasps - specialise in taking spiders as prey.

Cuckoo Wasps - cuckoo species on other solitary wasp species.

ANTS - all ants are social insects, living in colonies that comprise one or a few queens and up to many thousands of worker ants. There are no solitary species.

Parasitic Ants - a few species have no worker caste and rely on the workers of the host nest that they inhabit.

Slave-making Ants - have their own workers but raid other species to supplement their workforce.

As yet no studies of Ants on the Reserve has been undertaken and hence there is no species descriptions for Ants in the following list. The Bees and Wasps recorded on the Reserve however follow in alphabetical order of the binomial name.

01 Clarkes’s Mining Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Andrena clarkella

Generally distributed and locally common in England and Wales, scarce and sporadic in Scotland. One of the first solitary bees seen in early spring with a flight period generally mid-February through May.

A generally black looking bee with dense deep reddish-orange hairs across the back of the thorax and sparse lighter hairs sprouting from the abdomen segments. The hind legs are yellowish-orange but this can often be obscured by pollen collected on the hind legs. Typically females are 13-16mm in length, males a mm or two smaller.

Sometimes nests in large compact aggregations formed on the edges of well-trodden paths, but groups of 2–3 large burrows are more typical. Often seen feeding on Willow in early spring.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

02 Tawny Mining Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Andrena fulva

One of the first bee’s to be found on the wing in spring with an active period from March through May. It is widespread but not abundant.

Females are unusual in being slightly smaller than the males, 8-10mm compared to 10-12mm respectively. They are covered in tawny red-brown hair on their backs, throax and abdomen, and black on the underside. Males die after mating in spring so are less often seen. They are similar to the females but tend to be less brightly coloured - more drab.

It builds nests in the ground, often producing a small mound of excavated earth around the opening and is solitary, each female excavating its own nest but often forms communal aggregations.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

03 Early Mining Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Andrena haemorrhoa

A mining-bee, solitary, common and widespread in Britain. Found on short grassland, heathland and in open scrub. Active period March through June.

This is a small bee with the female around 8-11mm and is reddish-brown on top of the thorax with a black abdomen except for the rear end which is the same reddish-brown as the thorax. Males are much smaller than the females and their colouration tends to be lighter, even bordering on greyish-white.

Nests alone or in aggregations in suitable habitat such as the edges of pathways, gardens, short grass, and road edges etc.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

06 Anoplius nigerrimus

Family: Pompilidae (wasps) - Species: Anoplius nigerrimus

A solitary spider-hunting wasp, females around 9-11mm in length and males smaller at 6-10mm. Widespread and fairly common in Britain. Active from May to September and found in a fairly wide range of habitats, nesting in a variety of situations including under stones, in dry plant stems, in deserted burrows of other aculeates and in snail shells.

This is an overall black wasp, long-legged and restless, spending much of their time running over ground rather than flying. Their long anntenae constantly in motion exploring grassland, holes and crevices for spiders.

Photograph - no Woolston image available.

04 Buffish Mining Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Andrena nigroaenea

A solitary mining bee, common and widespread in England and Wales scarce in Scotland.

This is a small bee which appears larger than the 14mm actual size, due to the dense hairs and plump body. Females have black-haired faces, a dense brown-pile on the thorax and a dense buff pile on abdomen segments 1-4. The hind tibiae are dark but have bright orange pollen brushes. Males resemble small, slim females and have the face brown and black-haired. It can be confused with A. tibialis in the field.

This is one of our commonest and most widespread mining bees and occurs in a wide range of habitats including urban locations. Adults fly from March to July but peak in April and May. Nesting can be singly or in quite large aggregations, often mixed with other Andrena species.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

05 Andrena scotica

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Andrena scotica

A widespread and common ‘mining bee’ which is seen from early spring, nesting in sandy soil especially under pathways, stones and tiles in a wide variety of habitats. Although sharing nesting sites, even common entrances and exits, this is a solitary bee, each female responsible for her own egg chamber.

This is a dark bee which lacks any clear diagnostic features but, resembles a small version of honey bee at first sight. Females have almost hairless dark brown abdomens and ochreous-brown hair on the thorax. The head has some ochreous-brown hair but is generally black. Females are 12-14mm in length, males slightly smaller at 10-13mm.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

Andy Weir

07 Western Honey-bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Apis mellifera

The common Honey Bee. It is a domesticated species, although occasional colonies may persist in the wild for a few years in hollow trees, etc. Healthy hives can number 40 t0 80,000 bees.

The Honey Bee is quite variable in colour but are basically black, some shade of brown mixed with yellow shades. Male bees are around 15mm and generally have tawny-brown and black bands on the abdomen, tawny-brown thorax and a large head with large eyes. Worker bees at 10mm, have much smaller thorax, heads and small eyes. Queens are much larger at 19mm and similarly coloured.

Photograph from No3 Bed on 18/08/2013 feeding on Himalayan Balsam

08 Bohemian Cuckoo Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Bombus bohemicus

A common solitary Cuckoo-bee species, particularly in the north and west of Britain, scarcer in southern regions. Parasitic on social Bombus species bees and active between April through to August.

The eggs are laid in the bumble bee nest after usurping the host queen and the host workers rear the cuckoo bee eggs and larva, which take no part in running the colony after maturing.

A fairly small bumble bee, confusion with Bombus vestalis possible in the field, the queen is circa 18mm in length, males and workers a few mm smaller. They are generally black with pale-yellow and white marking. The queen has a single pale-yellow thorax collar and a white tail, which shows two small pale=yellow patches either side of the centre. Males are similar but also have a lesser, sometimes sparse, pale-yellow band of hairs on the first segment of the abdomen. Workers are as the queens but smaller.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

David Waterhouse

09 Red-tailed Bumble-bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Bombus lapidaries

A widespread and common social bumble bee of gardens and hedgerows. The queen and worker bees are mainly black with a red tail. The male has distinct dense yellow facial hair and a broad yellow collar on the thorax, there is also a faint yellow hair line at the base of the thorax. The queen’s hind leg hairs on the pollen sacs are all black, they are reddish in the rarer Red-shanked Carder bee. Male Red-tailed Bumblebees may have reddish pollen sac hairs.

The nests are located in a wide variety of habitats any dark place and often under stones. The active period is from April to November. As with all the family species only young fertilised queens survives. hibernating through winter emerging in spring to start up her own colony.

Photograph from No3 Bed on 13/07/2014 feeding on Knapweed

010 White-tailed Bumblebee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Bombus lucorum

Another widespread and common large British bumblebee, just a mm or so smaller than the Buff-tailed Bumblebee which it can be confused with. The active period is from March through to September.

Basically black and yellow coloured, the queens and workers single yellow thorax and abdomen bands are lemon-yellow not golden-yellow as in Buff-tailed Bumblebee. The queen also has a white tail, particularly the tip which separates it from Buff-tailed. Male bees have yellow hairs on their head, at the abdomen end of the thorax and a second fine yellowish line after the main abdomen band.

They are ground nesters in old vole nests, etc. Only the young fertilised queen survives the winter, having hibernated in a protected place, she emerges in the spring and starts her own colony.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

011 Common Carder Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Bombus pascuorum

A medium sized social bumblebee, queens reach, 15-18mm, workers, 9-15mm and males, 12-14mm and are active April to October. It is widespread and common throughout Britain.

Workers and males are similar to the queen, the thorax is covered in dense ginger hairs and abdomen in slightly lighter hairs mixed with some black hairs on the side of the abdomen. There are only four brown bumblebees in the UK and the positive identification of these black hair patches is the diagnostic for this species. Without this identification only close examination will separate the species.

They nest underground in old mammal burrows or in grass tussocks just above ground. The colony reaches up to 150 individuals and exists for up to 25 weeks.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

012 Early Bumblebee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Bombus pratorum

This is a relatively small social bumblebee with queens at 15-17mm, workers at 10-14mm and males at 11-15mm. It is a general dark colour with a yellow thorax collar behind the head, a central yellow abdominal band and orange tail hairs. Males have the most and brightest yellow colouration, workers are similar to queens but the yellow abdominal hairs can vary significantly even being absent.

This is one of the most variable of all bumblebees, The thorax collar is usually present but may be reduced to just a few hairs. The central yellow abdomen band often shows a break in the middle and sometimes is reduced to just a few hairs or in some totally absent. The tail hairs are usually present but can vary between pink, orange and brown.

Active from March to July and is widespread and common in Britain, scarcer in northern Scotland. It nests in a wide variety of places, underground in old mouse.vole holes, in tree cavities and old nest boxes and is rather small with fewer than 100 workers.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

013 Buff-tailed Bumblebee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Bombus terrestris

A common bee throughout Britain. Despite the name suggestion, the queen of this species is the only one which exhibits the buff-coloured tail. The workers all have a white tail, although a subtle thin buff line can be seen separating the white tail from the rest of the abdomen. Adult males are slightly more buffy in the whiteness of the tail than the worker bees but nowhere close to the queen’s buff colour. All Buff-tailed Bumblebees have black faces, a golden-yellow thorax band after the head and a golden-yellow abdomen band.

This is the largest of the bumblebees, queens being 20mm or more in length with the workers and drones 12 - 17mm. They nest in the ground in natural holes or abandoned mouse holes, etc. Colonies average from one to a few hundred individuals. Active from March to October. Young queens are the only bees to survive and hibernate through the winter.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

014 Vestal Cuckoo Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Bombus vestalis

This is a large bumblebee with the queen around 21 mm in length and a wingspan of c. 37 mm. The male is considerably smaller, 15-19 mm. The bumblebee is predominantly black, with an orange-yellow collar behind the head. The abdomen is black with a thin border of yellow hairs at the third segment and mostly white hairs thereafter. The males are similar to the females, but smaller and with longer antennae.

It is widespread throughout England but localised and tends to be coastal in Wales and has only recently been recorded in southern Scotland. This is a cuckoo bee species which lay their eggs in other Bombus species nests, B. terrestris, is a favoured host. The host queen is usurped and the host workers are left to raise the B. vestalis young. Active April to September.

Very similar in appearance to another cuckoo bumblebee, Bombus bohemicus, but is really only distinguishable by close examination; either the length of the antennal segments or dissection and comparison of the genitalia. In B. vestalis, the fifth antennal segment will be the same length as the third and fourth together.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

015 Slender-bodied Digger Wasp

Family: Sphecidae (wasps) - Species: Crabro cribrarius

A solitary wasp, 11-18mm in length in females with males slightly smaller at 9-17mm, which is widespread in Britain though can be localised, active from June to September.

Both species have a yellow collar behind the head which is usually split, a small yellow shield at the base of the thorax and yellow bands across the abdomen, the second and third being visibly incomplete across the upper-side. The lower leg segments, tibia and tarsus are also yellow. The yellow colouration is bolder in the male than female.

Nest burrows are excavated in sandy soils, though heavier soils are used, being found in open woodland and chalk grasslands.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

016 A Digger Wasp

Family: Sphecidae (wasps) - Species: Crossocerus megacephalus

A solitary digger wasp, widespread over England and wales, more common in southern regions. Active from May to September and appears to prey on Diptera species exclusively. Completely black in general appearance.

Nests in wood, often rotten wood and utilises the borings of other insects, beetles etc.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

017 Four Spot Digger wasp

Family: Sphecidae (wasps) - Species: Crossocerus quadrimaculatus

A solitary wasp, females 7-11mm in length, males slightly smaller, 6-9mm in length. Active flight June to mid October.

Predominately black in appearance but has yellow stripes on the upper-side of the black abdomen, although melanistic variants occur to confuse. These stripes do not form bands around the abdomen but look like four yellow spots when viewed from directly above. The tibia, second segment of the legs from the body, are also coloured yellow.

This species inhabit warm sandy areas and is widespread in southern Britain with a range extending into the north-west and north-east England. The nest is in sandy soils, a single burrow containing one egg each. Aggregations occur at the more suitable sites.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

018 Tree Wasp

Family: Vespidae (wasps) - Species: Dolichovespula sylvestris

A social wasp is widely distributed and common in Britain. Different brood generations can be seen from May through to September.

A medium sized wasp, circa 22mm in length, has typical black and yellow banded abdomen and is usually identified by its full yellow face and a single black spot between the black eyes. There are two yellow spots on the lower back of the thorax.

Contrary to its name the nests are not always located in trees but all tend to be under cover. Ariel nests are found in bird boxes, hollow trees, wall cavities, under porches and even etc. and even underground. Due to the short life cycle of this species maximum colony size tend to remain modest, a few hundred individuals at best, and the paper nests are quite small, 10-15mm diameter.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

019 A Digger Wasp

Family: Spchecidae (wasps) - Species: Ectemnius cavifrons

A large, 11-16mm, solitary wasp, not uncommon but predominately a southern species in Britain, spreading northwards.

The abdomen is typically a wasp yellow and black banded wasp, has a notable big black head and very large black eyes, which projects a very different characteristic from a common wasp.

Nests usually in decaying wood excavating small burrows or making use of existing borings of other insects. Preys on hoverflies and other Diptera species with an active period from June to October.


Photograph - no Woolston image available

020 A Spider-Hunting Wasp

Family: Pompilidae (wasps) - Species: Evagetes crassicornis

Widespread but rarely numerous.

A spider hunting wasp which is a brood parasite to species in the nest of other species ln the same family, eating the hosts egg and laying its own on the paralysed spider before resealing the cell. Active between May and September, with a preference for sandy habitats.

A completely black wasp with two-thirds of the abdomen coloured red and stout black antenna.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

021 Bloomed Furrow Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Lasioglossum albipes

A solitary, ground nesting bee widespread and locally common. Closely resembles L. calceatum (Common Furrow Bee) in both sexes. L. albipes females are slghtly smaller. The males lack the white hair separating the abdomen sections of L. calceatum.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

022 Common Furrow Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Lasioglossum calceatum

This is a small, 8-10mm in length, solitary, ground nesting bee and is candidate for the commonest ‘lassioglossum species’ found in most of Britain and has a long active period from April through to October.

Generally dark to black bodies with varying amounts of red on the abdomen. Females can be indistinguishable from other ‘Lasioglossum species’ in the field. The male is distinguished from its principle confusion species, ‘Lasioglossum albipes, by the conspicuous white hair bands separating the segments of the abdomen. Legs can be dark or zebra striped white and black to pale-yellow and black.

Nests in small burrow in short grassland. Although solitary, suitable habitat can attract aggregations of a few hundred bees.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

023 Willoughby's Leafcutter Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Megachile willughbiella

A large solitary ‘leafcutter’ bee, around 12 -18mm in length. The female of this species is very difficult to separate from its close cousins. They have a mild to bright orange underside to the abdomen - ‘pollen brush’. The males have white flattened front legs.

Common in Britain, more so in the southern regions, becoming more localised moving north. Active period from June through August.

Individual cellular nests are formed from leaves - near circular leaf pieces are cut and used to line the cavity for receiving the egg - in sheltered sunny positions in crevices in wood and soil. Each cell is provided with a pollen and nectar bed which the developing larva feeds on before overwintering and emerging in the spring.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

024 Normada leucopthalma

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Normada leucopthalma

Widespread in Britain but localised and more prevalent in the south. This is a large solitary cuckoo bee, around 8-12mm in length.

A dark to black bee with a wasp mimic yellow and black banded abdomen with a red band at the front and orange hairs on the thorax. The antenna are dark red with orange tips. The female has reddish markings on the head and thorax, the male has yellow-brown markings.

It is in flight early in the year, March to June, and is a parasite of Andrena species, esp. clarkella.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

025 Marsham's Nomad Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Normada marshamella

A small solitary cuckoo bee, the female is 10-13mm and male 8-13mm in length. Coloured to mimic a wasp with a black head and thorax and a yellow and black banded abdomen and reddish-brown legs, wings and antenna. The female has two yellow spots on the thorax.

Active from March to September it is parasitic on Andrena species of bees and is fairly common in Britain, less so in the far north.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

026 Blue Mason Bee

Family: Apidae (bees) - Species: Osmia caerulescens

A solitary bee species, 8-10mm in length, creating nesting cells in hollow structures using mud. The female is generally dark-blackish with a distinct metallic blue lustre to the abdomen - hence the name. Males are smaller and generally bronze coloured with a metallic sheen to the abdomen and covered with yellowish hairs.

Active April to September, widespread in England and Wales but more common in the southern regions. Young survive winter in the nest cavity emerging in the spring, males first.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

027 Red Mason Bee

Family: Pompilidae (wasps) - Species: Osmia rufa

A small solitary bee species, 6-11mm, though gatherings can occur at suitable nest sites. Their whole body is covered in gingery hairs. Males are smaller than females and have a small tuft of whit hair on their face. The female’s bigger face is black.

They are called “mason” bees as they collect mud as a building material, which they mould to form nest cells in hollow cavities. They do not actually excavate the nest cavities but use pre-existing cavities in soft mortar, hollow plant stems and beetle borings in dead wood.

Widespread and common in Britain but scarcer in Scotland. Active from March to June, The young survive the winter in the nest cells emerging in spring, males first.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

028 Leaden Spider Wasp

Family: Vespidae (wasps) - Species: Pompilius cinereus

Widespread in Britain, tends to inhabit coastal or near coastal sandy regions and is scarcer in Scotland. A solitary spider hunting wasp species, black with grey abdomen bands and grey to black legs.

Hunts ground spiders as the food source for its larva. The egg is laid on the spider buried in a sand burrow.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

029 German Wasp

Family: Vespidae (Wasps) - Species: Vespula germanica

A social wasp, very similar in general appearance as the Common Wasp but is slightly larger and has the black abdomen spots completely separated from the associated black abdomen bands. The black anchor face mark of Common Wasp is replaced by three black dots, spaced as the points of a triangle. Fusing of the black spots and marks can create ‘anchor’ style marks to confuse with V. vulgaris.

Common and widespread in Britain, nests in concealed cavities and underground often in large colonies, numbering thousands of individuals. Can become aggressive if foraging is interrupted.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

030 Common Wasp

Family: Vespidae (Wasps) - Species: Vespula vulgaris

A social wasp with bright yellow and black banded abdomen, about 20mm in length, queens are larger, with a very distinctive waist between thorax and abdomen is unmistakeable. The black abdomen bands have a central tooth to them with a small black dot either side, sometimes separated from the band as in V. germanica. Variable yellow makings appear on the thorax and head but a diagnostic upside down black ‘anchor’ mark on its face identifies it from all other wasps. This is a widespread and common species in Britain.

The nest is usually underground but can be in cavities in walls, trees and buildings. All of the colony perish except the young fertilised queens who hibernate through winter.

Photograph - no Woolston image available

11 Tree Bumblebee

Bombus hypnorum

A relative recent addition to the UK species list first found in Wiltshire in 2001 it has quickly colonised southern and central England and is extending northward but not yet recorded in Scotland.

It has unique colour banded hairs within the UK Bumblebee family with a tawny/reddish-brown thorax, a black or dark charcoal abdomen and a white tail which is very noticeable. Queens and drones all have the same colour pattern.

This is one of the first Bumblebees to be seen in the spring. The natural habitat is on the woodland edge and clearings were it nests high up in holes in trees, though buildings and other structures in this habitat are colonised. A particular nest site for the species are bird nest boxes especially when located on trees. Hole entrances are reduced to suit by waxy deposit of yellowish bee feaces which can be a useful indication of colonisation. As with other Bumblebee species, the colony die out after four or five months. Queens survive unti the following year when they establish new colonies.

Photograph from No1 bed