Sapyga quinquepunctata (Fabricius,1781)

Description and notes

Identification keys and general biology are given in Richards (1980), Gauld and Bolton (1988) and Yeo & Corbet (1995).


Cornwall to Kent, and north to Westmorland and North-east Yorkshire.

Overseas found in much of Europe (including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Malta, Cyprus; the Middle East (Syria, Jordan, Israel, Turkey) and north Africa (Tunisia, Morocco).

Status (in Britain only)

This species is not regarded as being scarce or threatened.


Found in a wide variety of open habitats: woodland and shrubland, lowland heaths, chalk quarries, coastal cliffs, gardens and cemeteries. Often found flying around the nest sites of its hosts: mud, walls, holes in mortar, dead wood, old wooden posts, and snail shells.

Flight period

Univoltine. Males are found during May and June, and rarely in July.  Females occur mainly during June, often during May and July, or more rarely in April and August. In Cumbria, females may occasionally be found flying in mid-August (V. Russell 2016, pers. comm)

Flowers visited

Thyme (Thymus sp, - Lamiaceae) is the only plant recorded in the BWARS Atlas, but it has since been seen foraging for nectar at flowers of Forget-me-not (Myosotis sp. - Boraginageae (J. Early 2016 pers. comm) and Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica - Asteraceae) in northern Cumbria (V. Russell 2016 pers.comm.).

Parasitic biology

Cleptoparasitic on bees of the genus Osmia (O. bicornis (Linnaeus), O. leaiana (Kirby) and O. aurulenta (Panzer), O. caerulescens (Linnaeus) (Else, in prep.)) and Chelostoma. The female enters the nest of the host and lays an egg on or near the egg of the host. Gauld and Bolton (1988) indicate that the sting is used to penetrate the cell wall, thus acting as an ovipositor. P Westrich (, 1999) says that the egg is placed directly in the cell. On hatching, the first instar larva, which has large mandibles, eats the egg of the host. Later instars have smaller mandibles and feed on the stored food of the host.

Author of profile

M E Archer.

Year profile last updated

SR - August 2016