Oxybellus uniglumis

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.


Poland species lists: Vertebrates

Fire salamander Salamandra salamandra
Great crested newt Triturus cristatus
Yellow-bellied Toad Bombina variegata
Common Toad Bufo bufo
Common Frog Rana temporaria
Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis
Viviparous Lizard Zootoca vivipara
Grass Snake Natrix natrix
Wolf Canis lupus scats
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra spraint
Wild Boar Sus scrofa tracks, signs, trail camera
Red Deer Cervus elaphus tracks and signs
European Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus
European Beaver Castor fiber
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus
Lesser Spotted Eagle Clanga pomarina
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Corn Crake Crex crex
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
Common Swift Apus apus
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dryobates minor
Great Spotted Woodpecker  Dendrocopos major
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius
European Green Woodpecker Picus viridis
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes
Northern Raven   Corvus corax
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris
Willow Tit Poecile montanus
Eurasian Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Great Tit Parus major
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Common House Martin Delichon urbicum
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris
Eurasian Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Goldcrest Regulus regulus
Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Common Blackbird Turdus merula
Fieldfare Turdus pilaris
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
European Robin  Erithacus rubecula
Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Dunnock Prunella modularis
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula
European Greenfinch Chloris chloris
Common Linnet Linaria cannabina
Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
European Serin Serinus serinus
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella

Poland Species lists - invertebrates


Azure Damselfly

Beautiful Demoiselle
Broad-bodied Chaser
Common Blue Damselfly
Emperor Dragonfly
Small Pincertail
Southern Skimmer
White-legged Damselfly



Common Swallowtail Papilio machaon

Small White Pieris rapae

Large White Pieris brassicae

Green-veined White Pieris napi

Black-veined White Aporia crataegi

Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni

White-letter Hairstreak Satyrium w-album

Sloe Hairstreak Satyrium acaciae

Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae

Mazarine Blue Cyaniris semiargus

Short-tailed Blue Everes argiades

Silver-studded Blue Plebejus argus

Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris

Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineolua

Large Skipper Ochlodes venata

Purple Emperor Apatura iris

Lesser Purple Emperor Apatura ilia

Map Butterfly Araschnia levana

Painted Lady Cynthia cardui

Peacock Inachis io

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta

Comma Polygonia c-album

Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae

False Heath Fritillary Melitaea diamina

Heath Fritillary Mellicta athalia

High Brown Fritillary Fabriciana adippe

Lesser Marbled Fritillary Brenthis ino

Chestnut Heath Coenonympha glycerion

Marbled White Melanargia galathea

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina

Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus

Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria


An ad hoc list of everything else to follow when they've been ID'd from the photos


Poland - July 2nd

Yesterday's storm hardly seemed to have cleared the air, but the sun was out full strength today - temperatures in the 30s Celsius.

After breakfast we all went to Wysokie again - Jacek and some of his family were mushroom-hunting, Martin wanted to find a track he missed the other day, Bob & I wanted to spend more time around the pond, looking for dragonflies and the elusive marsh warbler. 

After the rain, the water level in the pond was several centimetres higher than before.  The waterweed was mostly submerged, and now the yellow-bellied toads were much easier to see.  So were the newts, which made very brief sorties to the surface for gulps of air.  A small grass snake swam around the pond, carrying a toad that looked as though it would be difficult to swallow.  The snake disappeared into the vegetation, so we didn't see the outcome.  Caitlin, who had rejoined us after seeing the hill her Dad was going up, managed to get it on video with her new camera.

Dragonflies were a little more obliging than before.  Two male broad-bodied chasers held territory, with one of them occasionally flying in tandem with a female.  This male had a convenient perch near to the boardwalk, though he never stayed more than a few seconds at a time (usually just long enough to get the camera on him and focussed, and if you were lucky, to get a photo).  The female was always in the air, either with the male, or zooming around dropping eggs on suitable vegetation.  An Emperor dragon zipped back and forth along the margins, which azure blues stayed coupled while the females carefully deposited their eggs. 

Butterflies were much in evidence, feeding along the track, or on the flowers.  It was the same selection of species as before, but now a Map butterfly performed for the camera too.  Green woodpeckers and golden orioles called from the nearby trees, while black woodpeckers called from across the meadows. The woodpeckers usually call before they fly into the open, but must have gone across other fields this time.

After a while we retreated to a hut to escape the sun, and eventually the others returned, the kids with their mouths stained purple from eating bilberries.

In the afternoon we returned to the Nieznajowa valley, where the golden eagles - 3 of them - put on another impressive display, along with buzzards and a sparrowhawk.  It's amazing to have them so close instead of miles overhead, and to watch them for long periods too.  One of them was carrying a frog around for a while.

More dragonflies here too, with beautiful demoisells, whitel-legged damsels, and later a southern skimmer posing for the cameras.  Marbled white and sloe hairstreak added themselves to the butterfly list.  yellow-bellied toads now inhabited the puddles along the track.

But it was hot.  Very hot.  We wandered slowly along the track, and then slowly back.  Clouds were building up behind us.  A corncrake called from the meadow, and we stopped to record it.  Then the rain started. There was barely time to get our waterproofs on and the cameras in their bags before it became torrential.  Jacek was waiting with the car at the end of the road, but en route, Martin saw a reptile - we stopped long enough to ascertain it was a slow worm that was probably dead - it could have just been run over, or possibly dropped by an eagle or stork first. 

Most of the road back to Polany was hardly wet at all, showing just how localised the rain was - and how we missed the torrential downpour yesterday when Polany was deluged.

The beavers were back to their normal routine for our last session with them.  Here are the best of the clips from the whole week.

Martin went off to look for deer, but met a badger instead.

Then it was time to pack, ready for an early morning start for home tomorrow.


Poland - July 1st

Don't know what's happened to the formatting, but it will have to wait a day or two til I find time to sort it.

On our short pre-breakfast walk, we watched the white stork foraging amongst the hayfields again, then fieldfares and mistle thrushes gathering food and feeding chicks.  A woodpecker called, and after some careful searching, we found a lesser spotted in a nearby tree.  It worked its way amongst the branches for several minutes before flying off.

The intention was to collect the trail cameras this morning, and Pawel turned up on time to take us into the forest.  With the threat of thundery showers, and walking uphill in muggy weather, we left the big cameras at the Old School and travelled light.

As the vehicle stopped on the forest track, a large green bush-cricket landed in a nearby bush.  I kept my eye on it as I got out, fished around for the small camera in my pocket, and took a few shots.  Someone had left a moped just inside the forest, and Pawel was concerned it might be a hunter or poacher, and therefore armed. Fortunately it turned out to be someone collecting mushrooms - a popular pastime here - and therefore harmless.

With the trail cameras retrieved, Bob & I set off for a long hike, while Martin returned to the National Park offices with Pawel and Waldek to see the results.  Five days isn't much time for the cameras - hardly long enough for the human scent to dissipate - so we weren't expecting much.  Still, a wild boar and her piglets got in on the act, as well as an owl taking a drink.  Ural owls are the most common species here, but in infra-red light of the cameras they are difficult to distinguish.  This one could be small enough for a tawny, but maybe . . . .
Longer periods of deployment are much more exciting, like this one   
It was a relatively short hike to the border trail.  The route that border guards patrolled between Poland and Slovakia. It is a wide and well-marked trail, often following the mountain ridge.  Our section was a relatively easy uphill, ending at the look-out tower at Baranie.  Wood warblers sang either side of us, and there was a frog on the track, so well camouflaged against the brown leaf litter that we wouldn't have seen it if it hadn't moved.
The tower came into view - a tall structure with three levels and, more importantly, a lightning rod - thunder was rumbling in the distance.  The ladders had been repaired and were quite sturdy, so climbing to the top wasn't a problem, so long as had nothing too large on your back.  The view from the top was worth the effort.  Forests, interspersed with meadows, stretching into the distance in all directions.  And some spectacular fork lightning to the west.  We took a few photos and retreated.  Climbing down in a hurry when the storm hit would not be easy.
Near the base of the tower, signposts pointed along footpaths into Slovakia and Poland, as well as along the border. A well-built hut offered shelter and a picnic site.  And a book in a box seemed to invite passers-by to comment - though as all the comments were in Polish or Slovak, we weren't sure if it was for a specific project, or just general comments.  We wrote something anyway.
In hope of the storm passing, we sat in the hut and had lunch.  There was no wind or rain, just the rumbling of thunder, sometimes close, sometimes further away.  Then the wind worked itself up,  but still no rain.  
We headed through the forest on the path to Olchoviec.  A slow leisurely downhill through beech forest.  We would probably have ambled even more slowly if it wasn't for the constant threat of rain.  But it was sheer pleasure walking through the forest knowing it wasn't going to end in the next five minutes.
Eventually it did come to an end - switching first to spruce plantation and then to meadows.  By now it was raining.  The beech forest had kept the heavy drizzle out of the way, but the conifers weren't so obliging.  The paths were open to the sky and quite slippery.  Very slippery - I'm surprised I stayed upright!  
Out in the open countryside, it was still wet, but the drizzle gradually eased off, and had stopped by the time we reached Olchoviec.  Most wildlife was still keeping its head down - a few ringlets ventured into the air, and the odd blackcap and yellowhammer provided some song.  At Olchoviec, the stream was about 20cm higher than the other day, and laden with silt.
There was little to note on the track back to Polany, though it was obvious the rain had been much heavier here.  Indeed, Martin told us later it had absolutely bucketed down.  Which it did again later in the afternoon.
We should have gone out early after dinner to see the beavers.  With the water level higher, they were already busy when we got out there.  But they were apparently putting the finishing touches to the dam below the School House, and soon moved upstream.  The rain had flattened a lot of vegetation so we could see them swimming about carrying small branches of willow, but they were too far away to film.