filbert cobb is a regular commenter on this blog and has been since its early days (since February 2012). I suspect filbert cobb may not be his real name. He has produced two delightful guest blogs here in the past; Remember not to Forget, 30 September 2016 and The Sunken Garden, 25 September 2014.
I do admire the images of insects posted on ‘ere by Paul Leyland, representing as they do some of the best images that can be hadwithout resorting to microscropy. I have been trying to get a good close-upshot of a Ruby Tailed Wasp on a wall for ages, but they won’t keep still forlong enough. But I live in hope so I was wandering optimistically around thegarden taking pictures on a late July afternoon this year when I saw a veryyellow wasp on a very purple Buddleia. I have only what is amusingly called atravel camera, though I have never known it to travel, but for its small sizeit has a clever zoom lens that goes in and out when there is enoughelecatricity in the end of the camera although trying to see anything on thelittle screen thing is hopeless in bright sunlight but as the film never runsout I just keep pointing and clicking and sometimes I find I’ve taken a pictureof what I was intending to take a picture of of and sometimes it’s even infocus. Anyway I spotted this wasp that was smaller than a hornet but longer andmore yellower than your usual wasps and nothing like any wasp I had seen beforeso I zoomed up to it and managed to get a couple of shots off of it before itflew away. It was a bit long and skinny so I thought it might be an ichneumonwasp so I started looking those up in the Google book of Insect Pictures butcouldn’t find anything resembling my funny yellow wasp. Nothing for it but tostick the little plastic card from the camera in the little dust slot in mycomputer that is there to assemble an interesting dust, insect and dog-haircollection and to magic-up pictures from a piece of plastic.
Within several minutes I had a 21 inch picture of the yellow wasp on my screen. Whoaaah! The funny yellow wasp has knobs on. So it’s not a wasp.
Now I knew that without having to look it up because I had been learnt it at school by a slightly irritating chap called Mr Holley who taught us Zoology. He was only slightly irritating because he would criticise our microscrope drawings without being willing to show us how to do them in a way he wouldn’t criticise. Otherwise he was a normal for a teacher, who called you by your surname in a sneery sort of a way like teachers were trained to do and who had a little sports car and was engaged to someone called Sally. And a speech impediment that prevented him pronouncing the letter “ell”, which always popped out as the letter “arr”. Now this, maybe surprisingly considering this was BPCE in a Sarf Lunnon school, didn’t make him a figure of fun and the worst thing that happened was that someone stuffed a raw potato up the exhaust pipe of his powerful little car that smacked someone’s kneecap quite hard when it eventually shot out. But he did have an unfortunate propensity for unfortunate life choices. In addition to his chosen subject, and his betrothed, he specialised in the Tipulidae, the Daddy Longlegs family, and in addition to Sally his passion was constructing marine tidal aquaria so that he could watch molluscs like whelks and limpets die while we busied ourselves drawing uriniferous tubules or the penile bone of the Otter which has no articulating surfaces and is called the baculum, or the alimentary tract of Lumbricus The Worm. Most famously, while expounding on the population dynamics of greenfly his answer to a question as to how anybody could possibly know these facts, Sir, was an assertion that the greenflies had been kept in lots of little celluloid cylinders, forcing six teenagers to instantly acquire insight into what zoologists did for money in addition to drawing penis bones and the valuable and pragmatic life-skill of mirth-stifling.
So – because I had hung on Mr Holley’s every word I knew the hind-wings of Diptera are reduced to knobs on sticks or halteres as exemplified in the Tipulids so my funny looking wasp wasn’t a wasp but a fly, and found it was very probably a thick-headed one, probably male, of a species where the females grab hold of proper wasps in flight, often near flowering Ivy, and lay their eggs on them so the emerging larvae have a nice wasp ready to parasitise without having to creep up on one. And that they aren’t all that common. Scarce, even.
Although I saw the scarce yellow not-wasp-but-fly in July, I had forgotten about it until now, having been reminded of the purple of the Buddleia davidii in the sunshine while driving in the sunshine past the eight-foot tall Purple Cock of Towcester and wondering what Mr Holley would have made of Leopoldius signatus and why entire chapters of distant inconsequential memories can be prompted for recall in an involuntary instant in heavy traffic on the A43 when recall of more recent stuff like your own mobile ‘phone number may take days after the time you actually need access to it. If ever.