I must admit to being a little bit scared of spiders, so finding out that there was a creature who actively seeks them out filled me with awe. I was keen to see one of these brave and fearless insects so took to the sunny, sandy slopes on the heath.

The spider-hunting wasp is a long-legged restless insect that spends much of the time running over the sand, antennae constantly twitching as they explore any holes and crevices for spiders.  Look for a black insect with nipped in waist, brown-tinted wings and orange-red bands on its abdomen.

Having found a spider they paralyse it with their sting and then drag it to their prepared nest site, burying it in the sand along with a single egg. The wasp larvae hatches and the spider is often still alive but in a paralysed state when the larvae begins to feed on it.  Rather gruesome!

Here on the heath they usually hunt for wolf spiders and are best seen between April and September. They are not afraid to attack spiders much larger than themselves – apparently there is a species in the USA that hunts tarantulas!

See a spider hunting wasp: Look for them hunting along the sandy paths on the ‘Triangle’ or on the sandy that zig zags alongside the public footpath  on the heath, just near the Visitor Centre.  They are active already this year.

Heathlands Reunited: This is part of a series of blogs introducing some of the fascinating creatures we find on our heathlands. They'll all be featuring on our newly interpreted trail on the heath created as part of the Heathlands Reunited Project. This partnership project, led by the South Downs National Park Authority aims to restore and reconnect the precious heathland habitat across the National Park.

 

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