Just when I was thinking the wee flying critters had probably all disappeared for winter, up pops this little chap, tootling around on the top of an old fence post that I was checking out for lichen. I’m reliably informed, by experts on a couple of specialist pages on Facebook, that this is a member of the Encyrtidae, one of a large family of over 3700 different parasitic wasps (and that’s just the ones that have so far been identified – there are probably many many more).
Information on the Natural History Museum website states that ‘About half of the species of Encyrtidae are associated with scale-insects … generally as endoparasitoids of immatures or less commonly adults’, which means the wasp’s larvae live inside and eat the larvae, and occasionally the adults, of scale-insects – not a particularly nice way to survive, I have to say. Some of these wasps are also parasitic on the larvae of moths and butterflies – also not nice. Still, the wasp itself is a pretty little thing, and some Encyrtidae species have been used as biological control agents to control insect pests, so the news isn’t all bad.