Common Wasp, Vespula vulgaris
I found this critter dead on the bedroom floor this morning and in picking it up for recycling I realised just what stunning creatures wasps are. So often we think of them a nuisanceful pests whereas they're amazingly engineered and even in death almost beautiful. So I had to photograph it - click the links below for larger views.
Image 1 (top left) shows just how hairy they are when we think of them as bald. And you can just see the tiny, shiny bulge of the top of the wasp's compound eye.
Image 2 (top right) shows some of the mazing engineering: just look at the hooks and barbs on the legs - just what is needed for gripping caterpillar/insect prey and crawling over plants.
Image 3 (bottom left) shows the face and jaws which are the characteristics that identify this as Vespula vulgaris rather than any of the other UK species.
Image 4 shows something I'd never realised before (although my book shows it clearly) and that's that wasps have two pairs of wings: look carefully and you can see in front of the large main wing a smaller wing. No wonder they're such skilled flyers.
These are tiny, amazingly delicate yet robust insects. This individual, a worker, is just 12mm long with a wingspan of about 22mm. In her lifetime she may well have "salvaged" numerous flies, caterpillars etc. as food for the next generation of grubs - without wasps we would be knee deep in creepy crawlies.
This was taken under my desk lamp (hence the slight colour cast) with my point-an-shoot Lumic TZ8 - which is amazing for macros like this as it will focus down to just a couple of centimetres (much better than my dSLR)!
And as I was taking these I thought: how the hell do you go about dissecting something this small? Clearly scientists have done so, but it's a skill I don't have and I'm not dexterous enough to ever conceive how to do it! Amazing insects and amazing scientific work to dissect one!
Montage created with fd's Flickr Toys