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Nature can be full of drama.

For example:

full-praying-mantis-and-paper-waspWe've had a Mediterranean mantis,  Iris oratoria, on the rush milkweeds for a few weeks. Today it caught a paper wasp, Polistes flavus.

praying-mantis-feeding-on-paper-wasp-364You can see the wasp better in this view.

praying-mantis-removing-wasp-wing-0348At one point the mantis removed the wasp's wing and dropped it. Wings apparently aren't edible.

praying-mantis-wasp-fly-cool334Soon another insect joined the party.

praying-mantis-fly-on-head-0343A tiny black fly began walking on the wasp and mantis.

mantis-flyIt might seem like the fly was incidental, but it isn't. Small black flies of the family Milichiidae are known to steal food from predatory insects and spiders. It is a behavior known as kleptoparasitism.

Being a freeloader that steals food from a predatory insect seems like it might be a dangerous lifestyle, but the mantis seems occupied with the wasp and is not reacting to the fly.

See more about the flies at Milichiddae Online and What's That Bug?

Have you ever spotted a freeloader fly?

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This morning it has been partly cloudy, but during a burst of sunshine I was able to catch a photo of this paper wasp, Polistes flavus.

paper wasp

Any idea what she might be doing?

paper wasp

Look how shiny she is. Her eyes are shaped like kidney beans. She has three smaller eyes called ocellae in a triangle at the top of her head.

She was hunting for caterpillars and other insects. Wasps feed their young larvae bits of insects they catch and bring back to their extraordinary paper nests.

You might wonder whether I was in any danger taking this photo. In fact, this species of paper wasp that we encounter in Arizona is surprisingly unassuming. Unless you directly threaten their nest, they are not likely to sting. Their nests are often hidden in the dense foliage in small shrubs, such as rosemary bushes or under red yucca (hesperaloe) in our yard. We are much more likely to be stung by bees than these wasps.

I have noticed several paper wasps around my mint plants lately. I hope they are catching the cabbage loopers that have been devastating the plants. Go wasps, go.