The Wasp Beetle (Clytus arietis) is a great example of mimicry in the animal kingdom. Its black and yellow markings give it the appearance of a wasp, and its jerky movements mimic the wasps behaviour, which helps put off potential predators. This is known as 'protective-colouration'. The wasp beetle is a member of the longhorn beetles subfamily Cerambycinae, and is completely harmless.
HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
The wasp beetle can be found over much of England and Wales, and areas of Scotland. Outside of the UK it can be found across Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and through Asia Minor. The young larvae live in dead wood found in deciduous forests, particularly willow and birch. The individual here was photographed in heavy woodland in Dover, UK.
Reaching a length of 6 - 12mm, the wasp beetle is easy to recognise with its long narrow black body, and uniformly marked yellow stripes. The long, thin legs are a reddish-brown colour, darkening towards the body, whereas the antennae are dark and get more reddish towards the head. The long elytra (wing cases) protect the fully working wings, and this species can be seen flying around in the Summer months.
DIET, BEHAVIOUR AND REPRODUCTION
The wasp beetle wanders the woodlands in search of pollen and nectar, although the females sometimes take protein-rich insects. Preferred flowers include hogweed and cow parsley. Adults do not live very long, mostly dying off by the end of Summer. The overall lifespan of this species is only about two years.
OTHER NOTABLE FACTS
A colour form described by Allen lacks the yellow 'v-shape' marking on the elytra, this colour form is known as Clytus arietis var. medioniger.