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

The Guardian Australia - - The Guardian View / Environment - Derek 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

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

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