Sunday, 13 July 2008

Crime pays!

A fascinating drama developed over a two hour period on Cooper's Hill this afternoon (13th July). Firstly I watched this Ammophila sabulosa drag this caterpillar over seven metres to its burrow.

Once the debris that had hidden the hole had been cleared the caterpillar was dragged in:

Once an egg had been laid on the prey the process of filling in the borrow began:

Then a fight broke out, I suspect between two females, rather than an attempted mating:

This lasted a full minute:

and the winner, the original wasp, continued filling the burrow for another forty minutes:

Both the wasp and I then left the scene. I returned 11 minutes later to find another wasp digging open the burrow, and four minutes later exhume the caterpillar:

This was chewed around the head for four minutes (I'm not sure why) and inspected, presumably to find and remove the egg laid by the first wasp:

It was then re-buried in the same burrow:

And filled-in again, taking another forty minutes, and finished with a few twigs:

This was an intra-species crime and the DNA of the thief will prevail in this case. Was the thief the same wasp that had fought earlier and had bided its time for over forty minutes to take the spoils? Fascinating. You can see why the Ammophila genus has been much studied.

Pictures by Keith Balmer

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