Predatory wasp attack caught on film

predatory wasp attacking bee

I noticed a wasp on the side of my bee hive clutching what looked like the head of a bee, before flying off. Then I noticed a bee running through the grass, seemingly confused and in a panic. I wondered if it had been attacked. A couple of wasps were buzzing around in the grass in front of the hive. Another one seemed to fly off with the head of a bee. So I put a terracotta tile in front of the hive and lay down in the grass to watch.....

At first sight all seems fine and the colony of about 30,000 gentle, hard working bees are relaxed and busy bringing in pollen and nectar...

 

Suddenly a menacing wasp appears above the bees.....

 

Then the wasp dives down and assaults a bee in 'a completely unprovoked attack', upending it (slightly out of focus at the top of view)

 

Wasp and bee roll around on the entrance board to the hive, here the wasp is up-ended

 

They fall off the crawl-board onto the terracotta tile I have just put in front of the hive, still locked in combat...

 

Another wasp comes to join in the attack...

 

The second wasp swoops in to tip the odds against the bee...

 

Then another wasp arrives and it's three against one.... the rest of the beehive carries on working as if nothing has happened, the priority of the gentle bees being to feed their brood in the hive and build up their winter stores.

 

The wasps work together mercilessly and seem to be getting the upper hand.... this vicous attack reminds me of  the behaviour of some of the recent London rioters

 

And when I see this picture I can't help think of pictures of attack helicopters hovering over their target... it's frightening how close man's behaviour is to this. I fear that civilised behaviour is a very thin veneer. The wasps are displaying the very same basic instincts that were used by our ancestors in their struggle to survive and ultimately to dominate.

 

The wasp is now really 'putting the boot in' with its sting in the abdomen of the bee; wasp no 2 overhead can hardly hold himself back from giving the bee a good kicking too.

 

Now attacking the bee's head....

 

Oops, the wasp is underneath, this calls for some 'intervention'.

 

The fight continues into the jungle of rough grass...

 

"Keeping up the pressure"

 

Even the wasps are beginning to find this a bit sickening and lay off for a while. The bee, heavily wounded, somehow climbs back on to the terracotta and crawls towards home.

 

Making some more progress home...

 

Ouch. That is a completely unexpected surprise attack. This dramatic shot of the key knock-out strike reminds me of a scene in a wrestling or boxing match. I can hear the crowd roar and surge forward....  

 

Wasp leaping into the air 'arms' vertical in victorious display

 

Innocent bee in agony from vicious wasp attack

 

You can feel the bee's agony, its cry for help, it's terror and confusion, "why me?"  As an onlooker, you want to help but don't know what to do.

 

Trying to hang on to life... there is so much good work to be done in the hive

 

Turning around on the spot. She doesn't know where the next attack might come from.... terrified....

 

Kissing the ground and praying for help

 

Sudden irrational fear or on-rush of pain?

 

Not again? This is too horrible.

 

"You might not be able to see me, but you can probably hear me."

 

"I'm right behind you; you cannot get away"

 

"There is no escape"

 

"I didn't push her"

 

Still refusing to give up and climbing back into the ring

 

I really want to intervene, I can't bear this

 

Now she's going crazy. I think she may be blind, she is climbing up and falling down in frantic haste. This is what I saw another bee doing earlier. My suspicions of what was going on then are now confirmed.

 

"You could have intervened... why didn't you?"

 

Back again....

 

Nearing the end....

 

That's it. Over. Attack started 15:47 on 13th August 2011 in broad daylight on a perfectly ordinary day, with the bees going about a normal day's work in warm sunshine. Finished in the death of one bee at 16:02, 13th August. This is probably happening every day, 'in our own backyards' ; 'under our noses' while we go about our daily work in relative peace, hardly aware of the turmoil all around us.

Are you a wasp or a bee?

Justin Bere

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Amazing photography Justin, unexpectedly gripping - I don't think I've ever scrolled down a blog post with such urgency. And drawing a parallel with human behaviour is definitely thought provoking...