Thursday, July 23, 2009

Unlucky Moth

Large yellow underwing moths have been hatching out all over our garden during the past week but this one chose a very bad moment to emerge from its cocoon - just as a passing wasp was looking for a meal. Although they have a liking for sweet things, wasps are ferocious carnivores and kill vast numbers of garden pests, which they feed to their brood. They'll tackle prey much larger than themselves and I've several times seen a wasp kill a caterpillar and chew it into bite-sized chunks small enough to carry back to the nest. I've never seen one tackle something as large as this moth. I noticed the moth lying on its back on the path, fluttering its wings weakly - and then I saw the wasp attacking it, repeatedly stinging its prey's abdomen and trying to chew off the moth's head and legs. At this stage the moth was still fighting back and briefly succeeded in dislodging its attacker. The wasp seemed to be very irritated by the caterpillar hairs on the cocoon (still visible in the top photo under the tail of the moth) and by the hairs on the moth's body, and it stopped its attack several times to clean the hairs off its eyes and antennae (bottom photo). Then it retreated for a while, waited for the venom to take effect, then returned to finish its meal. After about half an hour, all that was left of the moth was the wings and holow thorax. Its adult life span had been measured in minutes.....


  1. Gruesome, but fascinating, and great captures Phil. That moth is certainly a giant compared to the wasp.
    Right place and time for you; but not the moth.

  2. Hi Keith,I also have some photos of the aftermath of the attack, but they're a bit too gruesome to post...

  3. Thanks Emma,the wasp nest must be somewhere close-by, but I haven't located it yet.


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