I encountered this little fellow - well, two of them actually - on Skokholm Island, while I was looking for bees. I thought it was a bee, until today when I looked at the specimen through a microscope. It didn't key out properly. Even working backwards from what I thought it was didn't help. So, bring in the experts on the Facebook UK Bees, Wasps and Ants Group. Within minutes, I had an answer - Thanks Stephen and Matt.
So, it is a wasp called Oxybellus uniglumis - no common name. I needed to know more. The only book I had that referenced it told me very little. It nests in sand, and carries its prey back to the nest by impaling in on its sting. But see below.
Google to the rescue now. The first few results gave me a few photos and taxonomic listings. The next result was Nature Conservation Imaging - Jeremy Early's photography site. And he's obviously done some research into wasps and other critters in sandpits and heathland. What follows is a small section from one page - it's worth looking at for the fascinating information as well as his photos.
If prizes were awarded to Hymenoptera, Oxybelus uniglumis would be a prime candidate for top honours. They are among the fastest hunters in the business, with an observer decades ago timing six flies caught in five minutes. The wasp in the first two images alongside caught five in six minutes at the sandpit. By expert observation elsewhere, the burrow of up to 12cm can be dug in two hours or so with two or three cells and up to 16 flies then placed in each cell.
A female can dig and complete more than one nest each day, this despite the time added on by taking the trouble to cover the entrance whenever the wasp goes hunting.
Clearly this exponent of life in the fast lane shows remarkable efficiency and strength, along with a phenomenal ability to generate sufficient poison for the job in hand – even though the flies are paralysed with only one sting, there are still an awful lot of stings required for each nest.
Moreover, the prey, after being carried back to within a metre or so of the burrow by the female, uniquely is then deposited briefly and impaled on the sting before being carted into the nest forwards.
Perhaps the prize for astonishing carriage goes to the second Oxybelus uniglumis pictured, with a greenbottle. Unsurprisingly she found it hard work flying with such bulk beneath, tending to keep low, but managed it all the same for some quite some distance. This perhaps confirmed that aerodynamically, invertebrates are among the most intriguing of all creatures, with wasps and their prey in pole position. If they are not studied closely by humans in the military or civilian spheres, they should be.
Formatting has a life of its own here - I have no idea how to make this look the way it should.