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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.

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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


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