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I didn't claim to be an expert on bees but freely admit to knowing even less about wasps. The 'wasp' chapter ran to 42 pages in the book* so it shouldn't surprise me that 108 species of wasp have been described in Lancashire. The curse of non-reporting strikes again however as there is not a single report of a wasp in Rossendale. Not a single one. Goodness only knows what those black and yellow stripy things after my ice cream were then…so that's the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) taken care of.

Historically there have been records of the sand wasp or thread-waisted wasp (Ammophila sabulosa) or its close cousin A pubescens reliably recorded in Burnley (8 miles north) and Bury (8 miles south) so was probably around here somewhere. As the name suggests, it prefers a sandy environment so what it is doing in the very clayey soils of East Lancs is anybody's guess. Unfortunately these were historical records and it is now thought to be locally extinct.

So in the absence of local data I'm going to keep an eye out for the German wasp (Vespula germanica), Tree wasp (Dolichovespula sylvestris) and European Hornet (Vespa crabo). Any reliable sightings will be reported to the Lancs and Cheshire Fauna Society and the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society

Beyond that species identification gets rather tricky. There are numerous references in the book to individuals being difficult to identify in the field and the need for microscopic examination to confirm. I'm not comfortable with specimen work which will ultimately serve no great purpose and, given my lack of skills, may well be inaccurate. Similarly I have no desire to become an expert in wasp genitalia or the dimensions of their mandibles.

Next up: ants.

* 'The bees, wasps and ants of Lancashire' (Lancashire and Cheshire Fauna Society 2021)

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