The course was run by the Bees Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS) and held in the British Entomological and Natural History Society classroom at Dinton Pastures. It focused on using written keys to identify solitary and spider-hunting wasps; at first I felt pretty daunted, but the course tutors Mike Edwards and Graham Collins encouraged us to get cracking and just see how we got on.
Ectemnius wasp abdomen
Ectemnius wing - these features can vary between species, so are useful in working out which group a particular wasp belongs to
At first I made a lot of mistakes with the keys, continually coming to the wrong name and having to start the process again. Apparently that is the best way to learn, as I became increasingly familiar with the key anatomical features for identifying bees and wasps down to the genus level.The relaxed atmosphere allowed us to get on at our own pace and no question was deemed too amateurish or silly.
I even had a go at keying out and pinning some of my own specimens from last year's malaise trap. My pinning is a bit off-centre and badly angled, but practice will make perfect and hopefully this specimen will still be identifiable.
There was a fun moment when I met Ryan Clark, who I follow on twitter. I only realised we were in the same room on the same course after he replied to my tweet!
The bug inside me grows for getting to know solitary bees and wasps, so next I am signing up to BWARS!