They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, well in the pest world this scenario can be seen as a life or death situation. Mimicry plays an important part for animals as it can not only deter potential predators but also can lure potential food to awaiting jaws.
I was called in to one of my sites by a technician as there were a couple of specimens found within an office which the customer wanted me to identify. The technician thought that these were hornets as they looked larger than a wasp but I reserved judgment until I arrived. Look at it; looks like a wasp doesn’t it!
Armed with my Collins Field Guide (a book that I have had since University) I tried to determine the species of the pest individual. I opened the envelope and out fell two of the mystery insects.
The wasp family was quickly ruled out as there was no stinger on the tail. OK there has been a rise of these pests this year – you must have seen the pictures of large nests in all the papers, and yes there was a wasp nest removed by the tech near to this area. I hope he tweeted it for #ukwaspwatch on Twitter!
I then moved onto another insect that I had seen in my own garden and this is when I struck gold. This wasp-y fake was in fact a hover fly albeit a large one at that but definitely from that family. After wading through the various species we came across the species Volucella zonaria (otherwise known as the hornet mimc) that fitted the bill to a tee. This pest lives a life as a scavenger in the nests of bees and wasps, feeding on dead and dying insects and other debris, a perfect match!
All I can say is next time you are plagued by wasps: before swatting please ensure that the thing that you are swatting is not the poor misunderstood hover fly.