Art and design






Life and style








US news

World news

Country diary: solitary wasp's embrace means the end of the road

The solitary wasp with forelegs wrapped round the fly.
Danse macabre: the solitary wasp on the car windscreen with its forelegs wrapped round the fly. Photograph: Sarah Niemann

Sitting down at the wheel of the car I found my view through the windscreen partially obscured by two large insects having sex. At least, this was how things looked from the driver’s seat. A solitary wasp had mounted its mate and wrapped its forelegs fondly around its neck. It had managed to anchor the both of them to the sloping glass with its rear feet.

This wasp was an angular Audrey Hepburn of insects, narrow-waisted with a pencil-point slender abdomen and an impeccable dress sense of yellow and black hoops and bars. It had pulled big time, for its “partner” was a whopper of a catch – a giant house fly, its coarse-haired, scabby, bulbous, abdomen flattened against the screen.

The fly’s head tipped back a little, eyes the colour of a tired strawberry. Its bicycling legs were frozen, as if in ecstasy.

The wasp’s talkative antennae flickered constantly, as if it could not believe its luck. It was, nevertheless, a restless lover, making little adjustments, raising its legs in turn and clamping them down again to secure a firmer grip.

I too was restless, and scrambled out of the car, leaning over the bonnet for an open-air view of the pair without the distraction of refraction.

In better light the wasp looked more glamorous, its body a blaze of glossy black and brilliant yellow. The fly looked marginally less ugly. By now the wasp had shifted the fly to lie alongside it and the couple were dancing cheek to cheek, the wasp’s jaws sunk deep into the fly’s face.

Paralysed by a sting, the helpless fly was being sucked dry. Its vampire of a killer knew no other way. The wasp’s constricted waist meant that it could not pass large particles of food into its gut and so, of necessity, it drank the blood-like haemolymph of its prey.

It drank and drank, and half an hour later was still drinking. The wasp was going nowhere but the car just had to. We drove slowly up the A1 with the thirsty wasp clinging to the windscreen. When we returned to the vehicle both creatures had gone.

Follow Country diary on Twitter: @gdncountrydiary

This article titled "Country diary: solitary wasp's embrace means the end of the road" was written by Derek Niemann, for The Guardian on Thursday 12 October 2017 04.30am


'Much work needed' to make digital economy environmentally sustainable

A cross-party group of MPs has raised doubts over whether the growing energy demand from digital… Read more

Country diary: a kind of heaven in avian form

In any other place a great white egret passing overhead would have commanded all our attention. The… Read more

Country diary: literary tourists follow Sylvia Townsend Warner's path

A row of round barrows stud a Dorset ridge – five of them, although tumbled gaps suggest there once… Read more

Don’t feed the fatberg! What a slice of oily sewage says about modern life

The fatberg that went on display this month at the Museum of London is proving something of a… Read more

Problem-solving could be key to grey squirrels' success, study finds

The ability to solve problems may explain why grey squirrels are thriving at the expense of native… Read more

The village that took on the frackers

It’s early February and the mood at the anti-fracking camp in the embattled village of Kirby… Read more

Climate change spells turbulent times ahead for air travel

Phoenix gets hot. But not usually as hot as last June, when the mercury at the airport one day… Read more

World’s most controversial fruit depends on giant bats for pollination

Durian. Depending on whom you talk to it’s either the most beloved or the most despised fruit on… Read more

A less timid version of Justin Trudeau won’t cut it. The NDP must be bolder | Martin Lukacs

At the New Democratic Party’s convention this weekend in Ottawa, their new leader Jagmeet Singh… Read more

Pollen data shows humans reversed natural global cooling | John Abraham

In order to understand today’s global warming, we need to understand how Earth’s temperatures… Read more