Visitors are being invited to explore the wonderous and sometimes gory world of insects at RSPB Minsmere’s ‘Digger Alley’ during July.
Digger Alley looks like a very unassuming site, gaining its name from the large number of burrowing insects that breed and live along this short stretch of sandy path on the Suffolk coast nature reserve.
But look closely and you will see it is teeming with some of the most fascinating species from the insect world.
From bees to parasitic wasps, ants to flies, up to 32 species are regularly seen on sunny days in Digger Alley, which has taken on legendary status for budding entomologists captivated by the world of insects.
Species found there include:
- Bee wolf, which is not actually a bee, but a solitary wasp. The bee wolf digs up to 34 nests that are one metre deep. The female preys on honeybee workers by paralysing them with a sting, dragging them to their brood chamber burrows then laying an egg within the honeybee. The burrow is sealed with sand then, after hatching, the larvae feed on the honeybees before spinning a cocoon, hibernating and then emerging the following spring.
- Pantaloon bee which gets its name from the oversized pollen brushes on its legs that look like baggy trouser pantaloons. This bee brings in pollen to feed its young and burrows into the ground like a corkscrew until it can submerge itself.
- Leaden spider wasps feed on nectar but prey on wolf spiders as hosts for their young. Temporarily paralysing the spider with a sting then burying it alive, a quick nest is burrowed and the spider is deposited into the nest along with an egg and the nest is sealed. After some time, the disorientated spider partially wakes in the nest but within a few days the grub emerges from the egg and eats the spider alive.
The July celebration of Digger Alley comes hot on the heels of RSPB Minsmere’s 75th anniversary which is being marked by different events throughout this year including celebrity book signings (environmentalist and broadcaster Mya Rose Craig will be visiting on 17 July), bird ringing demonstrations, summer wildlife wanders and bird, plant and insect identification walks for beginners.
Nick Forster, Senior Site Manager at RSPB Minsmere, said: “Our reserve is not only about birds, but about a wild variety of wildlife species that choose to call our site home. Digger Alley is one example of this and really shows the drama and delicate balance of the natural world in all its fascinating glory. We are very excited to highlight this special area of the nature reserve so visitors can come along and learn more about the amazing creatures that live there.”
RSPB Minsmere’s volunteer guides will regularly be on hand to help visitors identify insects found there, and a new guide book listing 75 wildlife species to spot on the nature reserve, including a number of insect species found in Digger Alley, is available to buy on site. Insects at Digger Alley are easier to see on warm sunny days.
Visitors to RSPB Minsmere can discover some of the UK’s rarest wildlife and enjoy family-friendly activities, a café and gift shop. There’s a choice of idyllic walks, or head to the reserve’s coastal lagoons to see an impressive variety of birds, including avocets, bearded tits and bitterns.
For more information on RSPB Minsmere visit www.rspb.org.uk/minsmere