Text and photos by LensAfield
[As I am beginning this site in late December, when there are no good outside subjects to shoot and write about, I will show this example from earlier in the year of a blog-type short post that will be the bulk of what I will produce here.]
Previously, I have written a three-part series on life-and-death struggles in worlds we rarely see. Here is one of the billions happening all around, all the time.
I was shooting various subjects in my little swamp milkweed patch when out of the corner of my eye, I caught some movement in a biota shrub about 6 feet away. On closer inspection, I saw a bald-faced hornet —a very aggressive predator—trying to take down a paper wasp.
Bald-faced hornets are constantly zipping around, hunting. If I see one not in flight, it is a sure bet something is happening, as in, it has located prey, landed to attack and finish it off.
The bald face hornet has massive mandibles which it uses to kill and then butcher its victims into neat little packets it carries back to the nest to feed developing larvae.
What had caught my attention was the two of them entangled together, tumbling around in a ball of ferocious physical frenzy and angry buzzing on the surface of the shrub. Without the aid of a camera and fast flash, the details of the action would never have been observed or appreciated.
In the banner image, we see the two combatants fully engaged. Notice the stinger is out on the paper wasp as it defends against the larger assailant.
There was a final furious burst of action, then the bald-faced disengaged and flew off (the wings are just beginning their flight motion as seen by the beginning of the wings blurring).
The bald-face seemed so close to winning yet disengaged and quickly flew away. Did the paper wasp deliver some venomous stings that altered the course of the battle and saved it from almost certain death and dismemberment?
The paper wasp fell to the ground, apparently unable to fly. It was seriously injured, having great difficulty moving, not able to walk normally. Why? Because the two front legs are gone. It can’t hold its head and thorax up off the ground and so was struggling to push and plow itself to the safety of some ground cover about a foot away.
It made it to the safety of the groundcover, and I never saw it again. The only thing known for sure is that the wasp did not become parts for the hornet to bring back to the nest. I would have no idea if either survived the battle. It is quite possible it resulted in a mutually fatal draw.