Paul Leyland – Figwort Sawfly

Lots of insects love to imitate wasps, for the protection it gives them. This one is no exception, it wasn’t until I noticed the lack of a “wasp waist” that I could tell it was a sawfly. Sawflies belong to the same Order as wasps and bees, Hymenoptera, but one of the main differences, apart from the lack of waist, is that they have no sting. The sting has evolved into a saw like attachment on the female genitalia which is used to cut through plant tissue where they lays their eggs. Hence the name Sawfly. There are several wasp-like species but the Figwort Sawfly (Tenthredo scrophulariae) can be identified by its orange antennae.

The adult Figwort Sawflies are predatory and will catch small insects, they are also good pollinators as they like to feed on the pollen and nectar of umbellifers. They are quite easy to spot on flowers or leaves. The main food plant of the larvae are the leaves of Figwort (Scrophularia), so any habitat where these plants are present is a place to see them. Adults are on the wing from May to August and most records come from England and Wales, getting as far north as Yorkshire. I saw this one in August on the southern edge of the North York Moors near the village of Allerston. Flowers and insects were getting hard to find after the long drought but I found a sheltered woodland ride which had escaped the worst effects.

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2 Replies to “Paul Leyland – Figwort Sawfly”

  1. I grow Marsh Figwort in the garden to feed especially wasps. They love it but I am still waiting for this species to turn up in the garden. Are they found in North Cumbria? Great picture. I will have to get even closer to my wasps to find this great creature.

    1. If you look on the NBN Atlas there is a report of one just south of Carlisle near the River Eden. So keep your eyes open, you might get lucky. I think generally insects are quite under recorded.


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