Filmmaker and photographer Geoffrey Whitman was sitting on his back porch yesterday when he noticed a group of wasps picking away at a dead dragonfly. Smartly, he pulled out his camera to document this rarely seen insectoid feast in all its gruesome glory.
Wasps belong to a different family of insects than bees and ants, and they participate in a wide range of ecological roles, from predator through to parasite. As carnivores, some wasps are happy to forage for food, typically feasting on the odd insect or spider. As Whitman’s new video shows, wasps are also known to eat one of their more fearsome natural predators—the crafty dragonfly.
The video shows a group of wasps taking turns at the carcass, feverishly picking away at the meat. At one point (starting at the 0:19 mark) you can even see a pair of wasps fighting over a single chunk of meat (wasps, unlike bees, are solitary insects, so they don’t really care for one another). By the end of the video, the only thing that’s left is the dragonfly’s empty exoskeleton.
Whitman says it’s the most compelling video he’s ever made, but to do it, he had to overcome his natural aversion to stinging insects.
“I may have finally overcome my near-lifelong fear of stinging insects,” Whitman told Gizmodo. “I got swarmed by hornets as a child while out picking blueberries with my mom and brother. She saved me from worse stings by aggressively batting them away with tree branches as we ran for our lives—you could say my mom’s hardcore—and I’ve been scared of all forms of stinging flying jerks ever since. But to get the shots I wanted, I had to get right up in the wasp’s grills, [and] I always had four or five of them buzzing around my head—they were oddly curious about the camera.”
Whitman says the whole process took about three hours, but he regrettably missed the part where the wasps got the dragonfly’s head.
“I stopped filming once the dragonfly’s carapace was empty of meat,” he said. “But oddly enough, when I went back later in the day after editing the video there was no sign of even the hard carapace or wings. I think the wasps may have done a ‘use the whole animal’ scenario on this guy.”