jump to navigation

Wasps! July 29, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
Tags: , , , ,
7 comments

All my life I’ve been terrified by wasps, at least since, at the age of perhaps three, I was badly stung by one.  I was playing outside my country home on a summer’s day when my carefree afternoon was interrupted by a sharp pinching pain in my left knee and, looking down, I saw a wasp sticking straight out of it, affixed by her stinger and doing a crazy Twist as she pumped me full of her venom.  I’m sure I wailed like a banshee, as I was that kind of kid.

At any rate, it’s taken me a fair while to forgive the whole lot of ’em and come to see wasps as a beautiful part of the natural world, to be wondered at rather than feared.  They’re amazing, really – many are solitary, and lead the same singularly productive lives their ancestors did eons before their birth.

On a recent trip to the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, MA I got to photograph a couple of wasps engaged in what they do best, making love to nectar-sweet flowers.  In this case the flower was an Eryngium,  of the sapphire blue “Sea Holly” variety, and the wasps were of two kinds, Sphex pensylvanicus,  the Great Black Wasp:

…and Sphex ichneumoneus,  the Great Golden Digger wasp:

These are two large specimens, each approaching an inch and a half in length.

Both of these Femme fatales  dig vertical ground burrows with side chambers, then hunt for katydids and crickets, paralyzing them with a nice little sting and dragging them live into those subterranean crypts, where they lay their eggs on them.  The larval wasps hatch and devour their still-living hosts, growing beautiful and strong thanks to Mommy’s thoughtful gifts.

Isn’t Nature wonderful?

And aren’t you glad not to be a katydid?

These shots were taken by Ziggy, my 50mm Sigma macro lens, and were a bit of an experiment – I nearly always shoot entirely manually, preferring to chose all of the parameters involved in this art form, but here I decided to give Shutter Priority and Auto a go because of the windy conditions – I wanted to shoot fast enough to freeze the motion.  They did reasonably well, snagging some shots I doubtless would have missed fiddling with the dials, but the aperture was necessarily set at a low number/large opening, resulting in such a shallow depth of field that large parts of the wasps aren’t in focus.  The effect, while “artsy,” isn’t really what I had hoped for.

I’ll continue to explore these modes hoping to tweak them into compliance, but I’m thinking that if I can’t improve on the results, I’d rather miss a whole lot of shots and bring home a few I’m really proud of.

Your impressions are, as always, welcomed and appreciated.