Edited 13/12/16 – for clarity only. Text and pictures – from when I started macro – remain as then, 14/4/08.
I noticed a jet black insect with two bright yellow antennae crawling through the grass in a hurry at dusk yesterday. A wasp, looked like. About three centimetres long. I bent to have a look and arrived at ground level just as the creature started to make its way up a blade of grass.
The grass was only six inches long but it was off the ground and relatively safe. The wasp seemed agitated and I thought it was out of place for it to be in the open as the sun was going down. So I went to get the camera for a better look.
On close inspection it was obvious what was the matter. An ant had a grip of the side of one wing. Chances were it couldn’t fly with the ant’s weight throwing it off balance and ruining its aerodynamics. And it was getting dark.
The ant had only one thing in mind. I have left bits of fruit out for these ants, to get a closer look. But they are not interested. They prefer meat.
*A word about these ants. They are only tiny, maybe three or four millimetres long, but they have Herculean strength. I have seen just a few of them pulling the body of a big fly a hundred times their own weight along the ground, relentlessly. They are everywhere around the house and I have come to respect them as the cleaners. They tidy up everything they can use, anything dead – or alive, moths wings left over from the frogs dinner, anything. I have even seen one take on a jumping spider – and lose. But they are numerous, untiring and capable of phenomenal effort.
As I started snapping I noticed the ant on the wing wasn’t the only problem. There was another one attached to one of the black wasp’s feet. The wasp was swinging and shaking its leg while keeping it at a distance from its body.
If a second ant were to get on its other wing it would be a goner for sure. How did the ants get on it in the first place? The wasp must have stumbled into a stream or swarm of ants for two to get such a hold of it. It did well to get away with only the two hangers on.
At the top of this blade of grass, for the next few hours, I witnessed a mighty struggle indeed. A life and death struggle. The wasp couldn’t turn its head enough to get at the ant on its wing but this was the greatest threat so it focussed its attention here while keeping the other at a distance.
Without flight the wasp was surely dead. I watched it perform all sorts of manoeuvres to try to dislodge the ant but for a long time nothing worked. It turned every way around the blade of grass and, eventually, by design or fortune, the ant was dislodged. I didn’t see it go.
But I did see it being eaten, in pix six, seven and eight. Where the wasp is standing up on the tip of the grass, an almost triumphant stance. But the fight wasn’t over, in fact it raged on for ages. There was still the one on the leg which couldn’t be ignored.
He wasn’t going away just because he was on his own. I shot it all from every angle trying to keep it all in focus, in the dark, by the light of a dying torch. I tried different things to highlight the action but the fact is I couldn’t see what I was getting until later.
Out of a couple hundred shots I got a few reasonably good ones to illustrate the event. I think so. In pix nine and ten it is obvious the wasp won out and in the morning there was no sign of it. I assume it flew away on its own business.
In the end the ants had taken on more than they could handle. At least one of them paid with his life. The one on the wing. I suspect the other went the same way.
The little ants don’t give up and run away. The wasp was persistent, and stronger in the end.