Wychwood Forest Fair (and a tiny wasp)

This year’s Wychwood Forest Fair took place on Sunday 22 August at Foxburrow Wood, Witney. If it’s a nice day, which it was, it’s always a colourful and entertaining event. As usual, the Club had a stall alongside other conservation and natural history groups. This year we included a ‘quiz’ to engage members of the public….

The quiz consisted of eight things you might see on a walk or in your garden – could people identify them? Although a bit too difficult, it attracted quite a lot of interest. Kids liked it but only one or two people managed to identify all eight.

One of our items was a Robin’s Pincushion, a gall caused by a wasp and commonly found on roses. It was in a sealed plastic bag and in the afternoon we noticed that there was a tiny – a millimetre or two long – insect in the bag. We thought it might be one of the next generation of wasps having emerged from the gall. By coincidence the Oxford Natural History Museum had a stall with a collection of bees, ruby tails, wasps and hornets, and a helpful young entomologist confirmed that it probably was a gall wasp, although precise ID was difficult.

Another tiny beast had emerged by Monday morning. The blown-up photo below shows clearly that it was a wasp, albeit tiny but much like the pictures in the books of the wasps that cause Robin’s Pincushions. (It was later released!)

Wasp emerged from Robin’s Pincushion, about 2 mm long.

The specimens on the Natural History Museum’s stall were absolutely fascinating, ranging from thumb-sized violet carpenter bees down to some no larger than a full stop! Immodestly, we also earned some ‘bragging rights’ because the two of us who did their quiz – to sort five bees from five bee mimics – both got four out of five of them right. So we are learning – and that’s what it’s all about!