Last week Julia and I conducted a survey for leaf-mining moths at Black Rock Forest in New York’s Hudson Highlands region. I think we identified around 70 species, but as is often the case with fieldwork, some of our most interesting sightings had nothing to do with what we were looking for. At one point, for instance, Julia said “something weird is happening…” or something along those lines, which prompted me to look up and see a large object buzzing past. I chased after it until it landed on a witch hazel overhead, and only then was I able to confirm my impression that it was a bald-faced hornet (Vespidae: Dolichovespula maculata) carrying some other kind of yellowjacket (Vespula sp.).
I include the grainy photo above only because it shows the yellowjacket while it was still intact; the hornet now proceeded to crunch audibly on the smaller wasp, yellow and black chitinous crumbs raining down, all the while hanging by a single rear leg. By holding my camera with my arms stretched overhead and squinting through the viewfinder, I was able to get some closer shots of this process.
After three minutes of constant chewing, it was down to just a portion of the thorax. This was the last photo I took, and we went our separate ways soon afterward.