Atlas of Social Wasps:
an HBRG Project, 2018-2022
HBRG has already produced atlases for bumblebees and ants.  We are now planning a companion atlas for the social wasps.  These are the ‘yellow-jacket’ wasps known (but not necessarily loved) by everyone.

One major driver for this idea is the northward expansion of the Saxon Wasp Dolichovespula saxonica, which was first recorded in the UK in Surrey in 1987.  It has since spread steadily northwards, and was in Highland by 2013.  In 2018, it became obvious that it was well established in the north, at least as far north as Evanton on the Cromarty Firth in the east and Oban in the west.  We in HBRG are in an ideal position to monitor its further spread.

Currently, only 14 of our 351 hectads (10km squares) have at least 6 truly Highland species recorded since 1995 (the cut-off date for the Atlas); only 66 have three or more species; and 201 have none at all!  In the coverage map opposite, blanks or pale grey squares need to be targeted.  Every square with suitable habitat should have at least four species (the two darkest symbols).  Maps on our website will be updated as records come in, so you can see where effort is required.  To give credibility to the results we aim for a minimum 75% of hectads, spread over all districts, with at least one species recorded, and the target for every hectad should be at least three species.  This will not be achieved in less than 5 years, so we will plan to complete fieldwork in 2022.

The current maps on the NBN Atlas in the HBRG Datasets for each species are available here.
How can you help?
Anyone can contribute to this project - just collect dead wasps you find, whether in the house or in the countryside, and especially from the more remote parts of Highland.  You can also sign up to the national Big Wasp Survey which involves setting beer-traps for 7 days in August to attract foraging workers.  If you want to become competent at identifying wasps yourself, that would be a great help.
Identifying wasps
It is not too difficult to identify females of our 7 established species of social wasp, though it is best done with dead wasps (identifying to species in the field is very tricky) and some training and a x15 lens will be needed.  If you want to become competent at identification, you will find a starter key to download below.  Initially, it would be wise to have your identifications checked, so keeping bodies or taking pictures is advised.  Males are a lot more difficult, as their patterns vary a lot within a species.  It is often necessary to examine the genitalia and other anatomical features - not too demanding a task, but it will require a microscope and some additional practice.
For full details of the project, including an introductory key, click here.
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