Year End Countdown # 10 — Confrontation


I took a lot of photos of paper wasps over the past year.  This one is my favorite.

I find these insects to be fascinating, in part because they are so beautiful, but also because of their complex social behavior.  Paper wasp society, as it turns out, is extremely hierarchical.  There is a pecking order among these insects and individuals — female members of a colony — are constantly vying with each other to assume higher positions within that order.  The highest ranking member of a colony gets to be “queen” and to reproduce.  Lower ranking members must work for her, but they are always on the lookout for the possibility of rising within the hierarchy and even becoming queen some day.

I was over at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum one June morning.  June is the hottest and driest month of the year in southern Arizona and water is at a premium.  At the museum there is a small oasis known as the Desert Garden and it contains a tiny ornamental pool.  I noticed that wasps were visiting the pool in large numbers and lining the edges in order to drink.  Fascinated, I began photographing them.

Suddenly, I noticed a commotion at waterside.  Two paper wasps had squared off as if to fight.  For about ten seconds they circled each other like prize fighters in a ring. They opened their mandibles in an obvious threat display and waved their forelegs at each other.  They never actually came to blows, however.  After a brief period, they broke off their confrontation and resumed drinking, standing nearly side by side.

Closeup photography is an art to itself.  I use a special lens that allows me to focus closely on my subjects.  However, although I can get close, the area of the image that is in focus (depth of field) is very narrow.  Also, movement or vibration is magnified up close and the possibility of getting useless blurry images is greatly increased.  I am very pleased by this image because the two wasps are in sharp focus.  It’s also a very dynamic image, more so than any of the other wasp photos that I took this past year.

Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5 L Macro Lens, ISO 320, aperture preferred setting, available light, f9 @ 1/1250.

One response to “Year End Countdown # 10 — Confrontation”

  1. Liesl Kii says :

    We remember this picture and it is a great one!

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